Uyghur Political Prisoners Mehbube Ablesh’s and Abdulghani Memetemin’s Prison Sentences Expire
Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 18 October 2011
CECC — The prison sentences of two Uyghur political prisoners in Xinjiang have expired, and both are presumed to have since been released. Mehbube Ablesh completed a three-year prison sentence for “splittism” around August 2011. Authorities handed down the prison sentence in apparent connection to her criticism of Chinese government policies, including Mandarin-focused “bilingual” education. Abdulghani Memetemin completed a nine-year prison sentence in late July for “supplying state secrets” to an overseas group. He had sent information on human rights abuses and translations of Chinese government speeches to an organization in Germany that monitors rights violations against Uyghurs. Other Uyghurs in Xinjiang continue to serve prison sentences for exercising their right to free expression.
Uyghur radio station employee Mehbube Ablesh completed a three-year prison sentence for “splittism” around August and is presumed to have since been released, according to information in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Political Prisoner Database. As reported in the Political Prisoner Database, Mehbube Ablesh, a Uyghur woman from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), was detained around August 2008 in apparent connection to her criticism of Chinese government policies. The detention came after she was fired from her job in the advertising department at the Xinjiang People’s Radio Station. A co-worker connected the detention to articles she wrote for the Internet. An overseas source said that in Mehbube Ablesh’s communications with him, she had been critical of political leaders in the XUAR and had criticized Mandarin-focused “bilingual” education in the region. A source also noted she had posted articles on the Internet that criticized government security measures for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and government handling of collecting donations from Uyghurs following the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake. She served her sentence at the Xinjiang Number 2 Prison. For additional information, see Radio Free Asia reports from September 8, 2008, (English, Uyghur) and September 9, 2008 (Mandarin).
Following the detention, charges against Mehbube Ablesh and subsequent information on the case appeared unknown until summer 2010, when the Dui Hua Foundation reported newly obtained information on her case. Based on responses to a request for information from Chinese authorities, the Dui Hua Foundation reported that Mehbube Ablesh (identified as Mehbube Abrak in the report) was serving a three-year prison sentence for “splittism” (separatism), a crime under Article 103 of China’s Criminal Law (English, Chinese). Given the length of the sentence and circumstances of the case, the Dui Hua Foundation conjectured that the full charge could be “inciting splittism.” For additional information, see the Dui Hua Foundation’s summer 2010 Dialogue Newsletter and article on Uyghur cases.
Under Article 47 of China’s Criminal Law, each day in custody counts as one day served of a prison sentence. Although the precise date of Mehbube Ablesh’s detention is not known, if authorities followed the law in calculating her sentence from the day around August 2008 when she appears to have been detained, her sentence would have expired on the same date in 2011.
Uyghur teacher and journalist Abdulghani Memetemin completed his nine-year sentence for “supplying state secrets to an organization outside the country” on July 25 and is presumed to have since been released from prison, according to information in the CECC Political Prisoner Database. As reported in the Political Prisoner Database, authorities in Kashgar district, XUAR, detained Abdulghani Memetemin on July 26, 2002, in connection to his reporting on human rights abuses to an overseas group. He was charged with “threatening the integrity of the state by separatist means, violating state secrets and sending them outside the country.” The Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to nine years’ imprisonment on June 24, 2003, on the charge of “supplying state secrets for an organization outside the country,” a crime under Article 111 of China’s Criminal Law.
The verdict cited information on human rights abuses and translations of Chinese government speeches and news that Abdulghani Memetemin provided to the East Turkistan Information Center, a Munich-based organization that reports on human rights violations against Uyghurs. Abdulghani Memetemin reportedly represented himself at trial and did not have access to a lawyer before trial. He reportedly was tortured while in custody. He served his sentence at the Xinjiang Number 4 Prison. See a December 6, 2004, report from Amnesty International and July 30, 2004, report from Radio Free Asia for additional information.
Uyghurs Imprisoned for Exercising Right to Free Expression
Authorities in the XUAR continue to hold other Uyghurs in detention for exercising their right to free expression. Cases include:
- Gheyret Niyaz, a journalist and Web editor in Urumqi, was sentenced by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court on July 23, 2010, to 15 years’ imprisonment for “leaking state secrets.” Prosecutors in court cited essays by Gheyret Niyaz addressing economic and social problems affecting Uyghurs. Sources also connected the prison sentence to interviews Gheyret Niyaz gave to foreign media after the July 2009 demonstrations and riots that were critical of aspects of government policy in the XUAR.
- Gulmira (Gulmire) Imin, a Uyghur Web site administrator and government employee, was sentenced by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court on April 1, 2010, to life in prison for “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration.” Authorities alleged she was involved in organizing demonstrations that took place in the XUAR on July 5, 2009.
- Memetjan Abdulla, a Uyghur journalist and Web site administrator, was sentenced by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court to life in prison on April 1, 2010. The sentence is in apparent connection to an announcement he translated that called on Uyghurs to hold demonstrations in July 2009 and in connection to interviews he gave to foreign journalists.
- Nijat Azat, Dilshat Perhat, and Nureli, Web site administrators, received prison sentences of 10, 5, and 3 years, respectively, in July 2010 for “endangering state security.” Sources connected the cases to their Web sites not deleting postings about hardships in the XUAR and, in one instance, permitting the posting of announcements for the July 2009 demonstration.
- Nurmemet Yasin, a Uyghur writer, was sentenced by the Bachu (Maralbeshi) County People’s Court in Kashgar district to 10 years in prison on February 2, 2005, for “inciting racial hatred or discrimination.” (Some sources have reported that the sentence was for “inciting splittism.”) He was sentenced after writing a story about a caged bird who commits suicide rather than live without freedom.
- Tursunjan Hezim, a Uyghur Web site administrator, was sentenced by the Aksu Intermediate People’s Court in July 2010 to seven years’ imprisonment. Precise charges are not known, but the sentence is in apparent connection to Tursunjan Hezim’s Web site on Uyghur history and culture and came during a period in which authorities cast blame on Uyghur Web sites for allegedly contributing to unrest during demonstrations and riots in the XUAR in July 2009.
For more information on conditions in the XUAR, see Section IV—Xinjiang in the CECC 2011 Annual Report.