|In 1960, British lawyer Peter Benenson read a newspaper article about two Portuguese students who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for proposing a toast to freedom.
Benenson wrote immediately to the Portuguese government protesting against the sentence. A year later The Observer newspaper printed his article, The Forgotten Prisoners, in which he appealed for the release of persons all over the world who had been sent to prison for their opinions or beliefs. He called them prisoners of conscience. The response was enormous, and by 1961 Amnesty International had been established with its headquarters in London. Soon afterwards, national offices were opened in seven countries. Initially, Amnesty concerned itself mainly with prisoners of conscience and torture. Gradually it included the death sentence, violence to women and poverty among its central tasks. Prisoners of conscience may be people who have criticized their country