Individuals, whether military or civilian, with political or religious opinions considered undesirable by a government, or individuals engaged in activities considered undesirable, whether they express these violently or peacefully, may be interned without trial, or with a secret trial, or with a public trial distorted to suit propaganda purposes. Those who do dissent may be imprisoned, tortured, committed to hard labour or executed; or classified as insane, brainwashed and politically reindoctrinated. Their property may be confiscated and their characters defamed. Imprisonment may be without trial or following a show or secret trial. Evidence may be fabricated and confessions extorted with the use of torture. They may be deprived of nationality but be unable to obtain political asylum from another country. They may be sentenced to exile in an isolated part of the country, forced labour, life or long-term imprisonment, confinement among common criminals, confinement to a psychiatric prison-hospital and subsequent brainwashing or execution. The status and even the existence of a political prisoner may be denied. Families of political prisoners may suffer severe deprivation and ostracism; and political arrest may result from a defamation of character to the authorities by a rival for reasons of ambition, revenge or fear. Political imprisonment induces apathy, fear and alienation which may affect social and economic development. Alternatively, it may provoke resistance, often with foreign support and indirect pressure.
Many non-democratic and fundamentalist religious regimes will not permit ideological or political dissent. In 1984 Amnesty International reported that political prisoners are being held in the following countries: