Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jail, 2nd trial for Canadian

Jail, 2nd trial for Canadian


Word out of China is that Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, 37, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for alleged terrorist activities.

Mohamed Tohti, president of the Uyghur Canadian Association, says Celil’s sister in Kashgar in northwest China phoned Celil’s wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, in Burlington and said police had told her he had been sentenced to 15 years in Bajianghu Prison in the Xinjiang provincial capital of Urumqi.

“This is the first news we’ve heard of Mr. Celil,” said Tohti. “The Chinese government is obligated to first tell the Canadian embassy of the sentence, but instead they informed his sister, Heyrigul Celil, who used a public phone to call Canada rather than her home phone, which police monitor.”

Tohti said, “Police told her that since he insisted he was innocent, there will be another trial. She wasn’t even told the crime he was sentenced for.”

Celil was arrested last March while visiting his wife’s relatives in Uzbekistan and was extradited to China.

Although a Canadian citizen since coming here as a refugee in 2001 after escaping from China, the Canadian government wasn’t very interested in his case or his plight until his disappearance was publicized.

To this day, Canada’s diplomatic concern has been lukewarm, perhaps because of China’s considerable trade relations with Canada, or perhaps because China brands all Uighurs as terrorists linked with al-Qaida — which Tohti and all Uighurs vehemently deny.

Alim Seytoff, general secretary of the Uyghur American Association, said after 9/11 the Chinese intensified attacks on Uighurs (who are mindful of Tibetans in rejecting cultural genocide and seeking greater autonomy). China claimed to stand “side by side with United States in the war against terror” and used it to further persecute Uighurs.

The Uighur region of Xinjiang province once was known as East Turkestan. Tohti says the people are the most pro-Western of China’s minorities.

Seyoff says Uighur people “look to the United States as the model for human rights and democracy ... and regard the U.S. as a natural ally.”

He says Turkestan was the first democratic Islamic republic in the world in 1931-34, apart from Turkey.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom visited the region and was told by the Chinese of “al-Qaida elements” among the Uighurs. The commission found these claims “not to be credible.”

Recently the Chinese announced that 45 tonnes of “explosives, detonators and military paraphernalia” had been seized from Uighur “terrorists,” but this seems a fabrication focused on road-building dynamite and such.

China claimed “thousands of explosions and assassinations” in Xinjiang province throughout the 1990s. But in 2001, just prior to 9/11, Xinjiang governor Abdula Adurishit announced that the situation was “better than ever in history” and that record levels of investment were coming into the region.

Mohamed Tohti is frustrated at the Harper government’s apathy in this case. He points out that U.S. government pressure got and an American citizen, Rebiya Kadeer, freed after six years in a Chinese prison for allegedly “leaking state secrets.”

Her crime? Sending a local newspaper to her journalist husband in America. Her release preceded Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to China last year.

Tohti, who escaped from Xinjiang in 1992 and has been trying to get his mother out ever since, doesn’t know what the second trial of Celil is all about, except that “he’s certainly not a terrorist” and our government seems unconcerned about his fate.

Article Source
To be continued

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

China jails Burlington man 15 years

China jails Burlington man 15 years
By Christine Cox
The Hamilton Spectator
BURLINGTON (Sep 12, 2006)

Kamila Telendibaeva has received unconfirmed word that her husband, Muslim activist Huseyin Celil, has been sentenced to 15 years in a Chinese prison.

Celil, 37, is a Canadian citizen accused by the Chinese of being a terrorist. He was arrested in Uzbekistan in March 2006 and extradited to China in June.

Telendibaeva says Chinese police told her husband's sister that he was tried last month and received a 15-year sentence. Telendibaeva doesn't know if it's true or not, because she's heard nothing from Canadian officials.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Marie-Christine Lilkoff said the government is aware of the reports but does not have confirmation. She said there are ongoing communications with the Chinese government about the case "and we are making every effort to obtain consular access to Mr. Celil."

Telendibaeva, who gave birth last month to the couple's fourth child, plans to go to Ottawa to urge the Canadian government to take action.

"They are not doing anything for my husband," she said yesterday. "He's a Canadian, he was travelling on a Canadian passport. I'm very nervous. It's been almost four months and we don't have any news (from the government) about my husband ... They have to see him, they have to get access to him."

Celil had championed the cause of the Muslim Uyghur people.

Mohamed Tohti, president of the Uyghur Canadian Association, said the charges against Celil are bogus.

Tohti considers the information relayed by Celil's sister credible. He said Chinese police told her that Celil was being held in Bajianghu jail, a famous political jail in Urumqi. It's the first time since his extradition that Celil's exact location in China has been revealed.

Tohti said the Chinese deliberately released the information through a third party, rather than through the Canadian government.

"They ignored Canada from the beginning ... they denied his citizenship," Tohti said.

Article source

Monday, September 11, 2006

Canadian held in China given 15 years, sister says

Canadian held in China given 15 years, sister says


Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China and denied access to Canadian diplomats since March, is being held in a jail for political prisoners and has been sentenced to 15 years, according to Mr. Celil's sister.

Heyrigul Celil sent a message to the Uighur Canadian Association this weekend saying police officers in Kashgar, a city in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, told her Mr. Celil was sentenced in early August. However because Mr. Celil denies the allegations against him, he will soon be given another trial, officers told her.

The information, though unconfirmed by Chinese or Canadian officials, marks the first time Mr. Celil's sentence or whereabouts have been revealed. In defiance of multiple international agreements, China has refused to allow Canadian officials access to the 37-year-old. Chinese authorities have also refused to recognize Mr. Celil's Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Celil, a former imam at a Hamilton mosque, is a member of the Uighur people, a Muslim, Turkic-language minority group whose demand for independence has long incurred the wrath of the Chinese authorities. Mr. Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan while visiting his wife's family in March and was extradited to China three months later. He is accused of terrorist activities and the killing of a Chinese government official in Kyrgyzstan in March of 2000. His family and supporters deny the accusations, and say Mr. Celil's chances of receiving a fair trial in a Chinese court are virtually zero.
Print Edition - Section Front

"It is fundamentally wrong to try him in China," said Uighur Canadian Association president Mohamed Tohti, adding that Chinese authorities have yet to file a formal charge against Mr. Celil. "The trial is totally unlawful."

Reached in her home in Burlington, Mr. Celil's wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, said Mr. Celil's sister in China is trying to verify that he is in fact being held in Bajianghu Jail in Urumqi, capital city of East Turkistan. The massive facility is known to house political prisoners, she said.

"[His family doesn't] know if it's true or lies," she said. "It has been four months and we've heard nothing."

Ms. Celil, who gave birth to her fourth child in late August, said she will go to Ottawa this month to protest against Mr. Celil's detention.

Although Mr. Celil's case has garnered much attention in Canada, it has also taken on ethnic, religious and political dimensions extending well beyond its individual circumstances. Activists have repeatedly pressed Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act, arguing that Mr. Celil is but one example of China's attempts to label the Uighur people as terrorists. Last month, 50 Canadian Muslim leaders also released a signed statement urging Mr. Harper to get involved.

In July, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay brought up Mr. Celil's case during discussions with his Chinese counterpart. However, those discussions seem to have had little effect -- if any -- on the prisoner's fate.

"The [Chinese] foreign affairs minister simply said, 'Oh, [Mr. Celil] is a terrorist,' " Mr. Tohti said.

So far, there is little indication that Mr. Celil will be heading back to Hamilton any time soon. However, Chinese authorities have yielded to political pressure in the cases of other Uighur prisoners. In March of 2005, Rebiya Kadeer was released after six years in a Chinese prison. Her freedom was in large part due to significant political pressure from Washington. She was released just days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to visit China. Ms. Kadeer now heads the Uighur American Association.

If Canadian officials don't take a less passive approach to Mr. Celil's case, his supporters say, it might set a precedent that would prove chilling to many Canadian citizens.

"If Canada loses this case, China will have an open door to try any Chinese Canadian at any time," Mr. Tohti said. "That would be a disaster."

Article Source

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A case of federal ignorance?

A case of federal ignorance?

Burlington man sits in Chinese jail on spurious premise that he's a terrorist because he's Muslim


Last week I questioned why Canada should be especially concerned about a citizen, Huseyin Celil, being deported from Uzbekistan to China, where he was sentenced to death in absentia for alleged "terrorist" activities.

Celil is Uighur (it's spelled various ways) who escaped to Mongolia from a Chinese prison and was accepted by Canada as a refugee and settled in Burlington, where he became an imam at a local mosque.

I wrote that Celil should have known better than to visit Uzbekistan, where many Uighurs (pronounced "wee-gurs") live and whose government is barely democratic and vulnerable to China's tentacles.

Where I erred was not clarifying that Celil, although a Muslim, was more concerned with the political repression of Uighurs, who, in a way, endure the sort of cultural genocide that Beijing inflicts on Tibet.

Mohamed Tohti is president of the Uighur Canadian Association. He escaped from China through Mongolia in 1992, and insists that Celil's concerns are more political than religious.

"The Uighurs are the most pro-Western of all Muslims," he says. "That's part of why the Chinese government is so hostile to us. Because most Uighurs are Muslim, China calls all Uighurs terrorists. We are anything but. We are secular and peaceful people."

Celil came to Canada in 2001. According to Mr. Tohti, he contacted the Chinese consulate last fall to inquire how he could get rid of all connections with China: As a new Canadian, he wanted no ties to China.

China doesn't recognize dual citizenship, and when it suits its purpose, it considers anyone born in China one of theirs -- as with Celil.

What bothers Tohti is that despite consular agreements with China, Canada has no diplomatic access to Celil. No charges have been stated; no one knows where he is. Throughout, the Canadian government has been less than vigorous on his behalf.

Ironically, the fuss over the extradition of Celil from Uzbekistan to China (Canada showed no concern at the time) has brought the issue of Uighurs to public attention.

Most people have never heard of Uighurs (there are roughly 2,000 in North America). Alim Seytoff, general secretary of the Uighur American Association, feels by visiting his wife's parents in Uzbekistan, Celil's "only mistake was that he didn't know that China could disregard all international laws when it came to hunting down and punishing Uighur dissidents who have peacefully voiced their opposition to the half-century long repressive Chinese rule."

Prior to 1955, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest China was formally known as East Turkestan.

What upsets Mohamed Tohti is the impression that Uighurs might somehow be terrorists linked with al-Qaida. He points out that their region is virtually isolated from the rest of the world -- China's largest, most remote province, bordered north to south by Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tibet. That's as about as remote as you can get.

"Foreign journalists are banned from visiting the region," says Tohti. "Beijing authorizes only 150 passports a year for Uighurs. They are captives in isolation."

Several thousand Uighurs in Chinese prison have been designated "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International.

Tohti says he's been trying for 16 years, to no avail, to get a passport for his mother to visit him.

"Because we are mostly Muslims (maybe 47% of the 20 million population of Xinjiang), China calls us terrorists, even though we admire and side with the West more than most Muslim countries."

Uighurs are the largest of 46 ethnic groups in Xinjiang, "and as Muslims Uighurs live harmoniously with Buddhists, Christians and atheistic Chinese."

Tohti wishes Ottawa was more understanding of Celil, whom he feels reflects values that make him an exemplary Canadian citizen -- if he ever is returned to Canada.

Article Source

Monday, September 04, 2006

Free Imprisoned Muslim Canadian in China:

Free Imprisoned Muslim Canadian in China

MCC urges Ottawa to intervene vigorously for the release of Huseyincan Celil

TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay to pressure the Chinese government for access to Huseyincan Celil, a Canadian citizen, currently being held illegally in China , where he faces a possible death sentence.

Mr. Huseyincan Celil of Burlington was admitted to Canada as a political refugee after escaping a Chinese prison. His crime was to form a political party and argue for the democratic and human rights of an oppressed minority group of Muslims in the western part of China , not far from Tibet . Canada rightly saw that such political activity is no crime, rather an acknowledged human right.

The extent of Mr. Celil's political activity was to represent the Uyghur peoples in the land they have lived for 4000 years. Like the Tibetans, the Uyghur are an oppressed minority group,facing economic, political, religious and cultural suppression. They are treated like strangers in their own lands, their language is banned in schools and their mosques are summarily closed. They practice a moderate form of Sufi Islam and largely lead secular lives.

But, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project and supported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, they are the only minority population facing executions for expressing their political and religious freedoms. The Chinese government uses them for slave labour and compulsory unpaid labour on infrastructure projects in the region. The UN High Commissioner has recently expressed her concern over the treatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese government.

After fleeing China , Mr. Celil was tried in absentia for his democratizing efforts and given the death penalty.

Mr. Celil is undergoing a trial that is not open to the public and he has not been given adequate legal representation. His lawyer in Canada has not been given a response from the government of China when requesting to speak to him. Even the government of Canada does not know his location or status.

Mr. Celil has been denied Canadian consular access, violating international law, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It has been four months since Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay assured his wife that the government of Canada would take action. Since then, Peter McKay has been brushed off by Chinese government officials and has garnered no information about this desperate case.

According to Professor Burton of Brock University, the Chinese authorities use unproven charges of anti-government activities and terrorism as an excuse to crack down on the political rights of minority groups, and that in the Chinese system once a person comes up for trial, a guilty verdict is all but guaranteed, "the [only] question is what is the nature of the punishment will be". We know that the Chinese government has already declared a punishment of the death penalty in an earlier trial in which Mr. Celil was denied a defence.

The MCC supports the Uyghur Canadian Association in arguing that Mr. Celil's role in organizing the Uyghur people to demand their rights through non-violent means is protected by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.