Issue 26 – Detentions of Religious Charges – Huseyin Cell

World Uyghur Congress, 10 June 2018

Huseyin Celil was a charismatic Uyghur imam, who is currently serving a life sentence in China for ‘terrorist’ activities. The nature of the allegations against Huseyin Celil have never been specified or substantiated by the Chinese government and it is assumed that he is being punished for peaceful political activities he engaged in before he left East Turkistan. He had advocated for human rights and better representation for the Uyghur people before fleeing the country.

Hüseyin Celil fled China in the 1990s after serving a prison term on charges related to organising a political party. He came to Canada in 2001 as a refugee from Turkey and later gained Canadian citizenship in 2005. Three of his four children, aged six to 15, were born in Canada.

In 2006, Mr. Celil went to Uzbekistan to meet with his wife’s parents, but he was detained by Uzbek authorities in March 2006 when he tried to renew his visa, reportedly at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities who wanted to question him in connection with crimes committed in Kyrgyzstan in the year 2000. Celil’s detention occurred despite the fact that he was unequivocally cleared of any involvement in those crimes, as he was in Turkey under the protection of the UNHCR at the time. Chinese authorities subsequently secured his repatriation from Uzbekistan in June 2006. He was deported back to China and sentenced to life in prison on unspecified charges of ‘terrorism’. The Chinese government refused to acknowledge Mr. Celil’s Canadian citizenship, only considering him to be a Chinese national.