Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Uyghur Historian Released From Prison

Uyghur Historian Released From Prison

Uyghur historian Tohti Tunyaz completed his 11-year sentence for "inciting splittism" and "unlawfully obtaining state secrets" on February 10, 2009, according to information accessible to the public in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Political Prisoner Database, and he has since been released from prison, according to February 10 reports from the Sankei and Mainichi (via Yahoo) newspapers, based on information from sources close to the case. According to the reports, after being met by his sister at the prison in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Tohti Tunyaz traveled to a relative's home. The Sankei report said it is unclear whether Tohti Tunyaz will be allowed to return to Japan, where he had previously lived. According to the Mainichi report, his wife and two children reside in Japan.

As noted in the CECC Political Prisoner Database, on February 11, 1998, Chinese authorities detained Tohti Tunyaz, an ethnic Uyghur citizen of China based at Tokyo University in Japan, while he was visiting the XUAR to conduct research on Uyghur history. On March 10, 1999, the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to 11 years’ imprisonment for "inciting splittism" and "unlawfully supplying state secrets to entities outside China," crimes under Articles 103 and 111 of the Criminal Law. On February 15, 2000, the Xinjiang High People's Court rejected his appeal, but it changed the charge of "unlawfully supplying state secrets" to foreign entities to the charge of "unlawfully obtaining state secrets," a crime under Article 282 of the Criminal Law. Sources close to the case said the alleged "state secrets" were a list of documents from an official librarian and sources said that Tohti Tunyaz had not published a separatist book, though the trial court alleged he had. On May 17, 2001, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found his imprisonment to be arbitrary and in violation of his right to freedom of thought, expression, and opinion (decision via University of Minnesota Human Rights Library). Tohti Tunyaz served his sentence in the Xinjiang Number 3 Prison in Urumqi.

Authorities in the XUAR continue to hold other Uyghurs in detention for exercising their right to free expression, based on information accessible to the public in the CECC Political Prisoner Database. Cases include:

* Miradil Yasin and Mutellip Téyip. Xinjiang University (XU) security staff detained Miradil (Mir'adil) Yasin and Mutellip Téyip on December 20, 2008, for distributing leaflets on campus calling on students to hold a demonstration. XU staff notified public security offices, which took the two young men into detention.

* Mehbube Ablesh. An employee in the advertising department at the Xinjiang People's Radio Station, Mehbube Ablesh was fired from her job in August 2008 and detained in apparent connection to her writings for the Internet that were critical of government policies, including "bilingual" education.

* Nurmemet Yasin. A XUAR court sentenced writer Nurmemet (Nurmuhemmet) Yasin to 10 years in prison in 2005 for "inciting splittism'' after he wrote a story about a caged bird who commits suicide rather than live without freedom. Korash Huseyin, chief editor of the journal that published Nurmemet Yasin's story, received a three-year sentence in 2005 for "dereliction of duty." Korash Huseyin completed his sentence in February 2008 and is presumed to have been released from prison.

* Abdulla Jamal. Authorities arrested teacher Abdulla Jamal in April 2005, after he submitted for publication a manuscript that authorities claimed incited separatism. The arrest followed his detention a month earlier, along with the detention of 3 other teachers and 17 or 18 students, ostensibly for involvement in a fight between ethnic Uyghur and Han Chinese students.

* Abdulghani Memetemin. A XUAR court sentenced journalist Abdulghani Memetemin to nine years' imprisonment in 2003 for providing information on government repression against Uyghurs to an overseas organization that reports on human rights abuses in the XUAR. Authorities characterized this act as "supplying state secrets to an organization outside the country."

The CECC reported in its 2008 Annual Report that repression in the XUAR increased in 2008 amid preparations for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, limited official reports of terrorist activity, and protests among Uyghurs and Tibetans in China. Authorities implemented harsh security measures, especially among the ethnic Uyghur population, including wide-scale detentions, inspections of households, restrictions on Uyghurs' domestic and international travel, restrictions on peaceful protest, and increased controls over religious activity and religious practitioners. The government also continued to strengthen policies aimed at diluting Uyghur ethnic identity and promoting assimilation. Since publishing its 2008 Annual Report, the CECC has observed a continuation of harsh security measures and policies that place assimilation pressures on ethnic minorities.

For additional information about conditions in the XUAR, see the CECC 2008 Annual Report.

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