Weekly Brief September 22

World Uyghur Congress, 22 September 2017

Situation of Detained Uyghur Students Raised in UN Human Rights Council

During the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council an Item 4 Oral Statement was made on behalf of the The Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty regarding the Uyghur students who are currently imprisoned in Egypt on baseless charges.

At least 22 have already been forcibly returned to China where they have disappeared. We fear that they may be at risk of arbitrary detention, forced re-education or torture. Approximately 200 more Uyghur, many of them students remain in detention in Egypt uncertain of their fate.

There have been reports that 12 Uyghurs were released by Egyptian authorities 2 weeks ago. We hope that the rest of the innocent Uyghur students will also be immediately released and that no more Uyghurs will be deported to China where they are at risk of torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance.

Third Anniversary of Ilham Tohti’s Sentencing

September 23rd, 2017, marked the third anniversary of Uyghur academic and economist Ilham Tohti’s unjust life sentence. Three years have yielded little in terms of improving the conditions in which Tohti is confined, which have included the deprivation of his right to family visits (less than one hour every three months) and even the right to communicate with family and friends.

Tohti is a prominent Uyghur academic who served as a professor of economics at Minzu University and revered for establishing Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improving relations between Uyghurs and Han. He has been recognized by the international community for his staunch opposition to violence, and continued support for Uyghur-Han dialogue and understanding.

Tohti was arrested in January 2014 for, “committing crimes and violating the law,” and for “spreading separatist ideas,” “inciting ethnic hatred” and “advocat[ing] Xinjiang independence” shortly thereafter. Tohti was convicted on September 23, 2014 to life in prison after a two-day trial for “advocating separatism” in a trial that was described as “a farce” by the PEN American Center. Amnesty International called the sentence “deplorable” with “no basis in reality” with Human Rights Watch stating that his trial amounted to “an injustice of the highest order.” Tohti’s appeal was subsequently denied in November 2014.

During his initial detention and trial, Tohti was denied visits from family and was unable to meet with his lawyer for six months following his arrest. Tohti’s lawyers, Li Fangping and Liu Xiaoyuan, also cited numerous procedural errors following the trial including the prosecutor’s failure to provide complete evidence for the defense team to review and the refusal of the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court to call any of the witnesses Tohti’s lawyers had requested to testify at his trial.

Tohti was officially nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in September 2016, was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders the same year, and won the 2017 Human Rights Prize from the city of Weimar, Germany.

Uyghur Woman Handed 10-Year Prison Tern Over Headscarf Claim

A Chinese court in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region has jailed a young Uyghur woman for 10 years over claims by a friend that she had promoted the wearing of headscarves.

The detained woman, named Horigul Nasir, had been working as an au pair in Xinjiang’s Kashgar city, according to Radio Free Asia. A friend of Horigul was reportedly arrested and interrogated by Chinese police and told thme that Horigul had been promoting the wearing of headscarves.

She was subsequently arrested by the police on these claims, despite the fact that Horigul’s family reported that she was not particularly religious and did not regularly wear headscarves.