Italian Politicians Call on Parliament to Explain Uyghur Exile Leader’s Detention
Radio Free Asia, 10 August 2017
By Alim Seytoff – Three Italian politicians called on both houses of Italy’s parliament last week to explain why the leader of a prominent Uyghur exile association was detained on July 26 by a special unit of the Italian police at the time of a human rights conference, and to say how Italy plans to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Senators Luigi Compagna and Luigi Mancon and Italian Member of Parliament Roberto Rampi requested information on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 from both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies regarding the detention of Dolkun Isa, general secretary of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.
“The international community is beginning to question whether this is running the risk of becoming a way to reach dissidents, political opponents, and human rights defenders across borders, as opposed to its original purpose of being an instrument to combat international organized crime,” Sen. Manconi wrote in a letter released Aug. 1.
Isa was detained at the time he was scheduled to speak at a press conference organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), to which he belongs, and Italy’s Nonviolent Radical Party.
Isa, who is a German national, informed his German lawyer and the German authorities of his detention by cellphone.
He was held in custody for about three hours, forcing him to miss the entire conference.
Attack on freedom
The politicians’ letter of inquiry states that Isa’s detention resulted in an infringement of the freedom of expression of the leader of a minority group by an official department of the Italian State.
Isa told RFA that he was pleased and grateful to the politicians for submitting questions to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate to ask about his detention two weeks ago.
“I hope this inquiry will clear the clouds over my detention and put an end to authoritarian countries like China abusing ‘red alerts’ issued by Interpol to harass and hunt down peaceful dissidents and human rights activists,” Isa told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“My case is a reminder to members of the European Union and United Nations that they should not take China’s accusations against peaceful Uyghur activists like me seriously. And they should never let China dictate their internal politics,” Isa added.
The letter to the Chamber of Deputies also asks for Italy’s opinion of the incident and why, if Isa was considered to be a potential terrorist threat, he was “not stopped when boarding his flight in Munich, when landing in Rome, or when entering or exiting his hotel,” and why he was instead detained by 15 to 20 plainclothes members of the Divisione Investigazioni Generali e Operazioni Speciali (DIGOS) at the time of the conference.
The timing of Isa’s detainment led to the suspicion that the use of a “red alert” issued by Interpol, an international police organization, was made to harass peaceful dissents and human rights activists.
Interpol had issued an international alert on Isa several years ago based on what Isa called a “politically motivated and baseless request” by the Chinese government, and the alert was later rejected by German authorities, who viewed it as a “political warrant,” he told the DIGOS officers at the time he was detained.
In November last year, China’s Deputy Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei was elected president of Interpol. Isa told the officers who detained him that asking Interpol to run a check on his background “ was like asking the Chinese government to do so.
However, the officers informed Isa that they intended to proceed with the Interpol check.
Isa told RFA after his release that he was treated well while in custody and expressed his gratitude to the German government for its intervention in his case. He also thanked members of the Italian Senate, the Nonviolent Radical Party, the UNPO, and the WUC for their concern.
But he condemned what he called the “nefarious influence of the Chinese government” on democratic Europe and said that it must stop.
“[Nations of] the free world should not allow China to interfere in their internal affairs and let China use Interpol as an instrument to achieve its illegitimate objectives,” Isa told RFA in an earlier report.
Reported and translated by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Lillian Andemicael.