Is there a difference between the two? I admit I have been using them interchangeably but I won’t any more. From Dr. Oscar Biscet’s MySpace page:
“A political prisoner is described by Amnesty International as “any prisoner whose case has a significant political element: whether the motivation of the prisoner’s acts, the acts themselves, or the motivation of the authorities.” Some political prisoners who were not prisoners of conscience because they advocated or participated in violence are: Nelson Mandela , Fidel Castro, and Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo. A political prisoner can be violent or non-violent.
A prisoner of conscience is anyone imprisoned for the non-violent exercise of their beliefs. Independent journalists, human rights activists, and Project Varela petitioners currently imprisoned in Cuba are prisoners of conscience. According to Amnesty International, the human rights organization founded in 1961 a “prisoner of conscience” is someone imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. The term was coined by Amnesty International’s founder, civil rights lawyer Peter Benenson. For example in South Africa, Steve Biko was identified by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience whereas Nelson Mandela was not. Amnesty has identified Cuban prisoners of conscience and repeatedly called for their release. Two historic examples pre-dating Amnesty International would be Mohandes Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Today, Doctor Oscar Elias Biscet and Aung San Suu Kyi are two well known examples of prisoners of conscience.
In conclusion, every prisoner of conscience is a political prisoner, but not every political prisoner is a prisoner of conscience. It is a narrower definition that applies to individuals exercising their fundamental rights to effect change or simply exercise their freedoms.”
You can get a lot more info and videos on the page that is maintained on behalf of Dr. Biscet HERE.