World Uyghur Congress Strongly Denounces the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters

For immediate release
July 29, 2010
Contact:  World Uyghur Congres (
www.uyghurcongress.org)
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 (Munich, Germany), +1 (202) 535 0048 (Washington, DC, USA)

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly denounces the sentencing of three Uyghur male webmasters to various prison terms late last week by the Intermediate People’s Court of Urumchi in East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR)) in connection with their administration of their Uyghur-language websites.  Nijat Azat (webmaster of Shabnam), Dilshat Perhat (webmaster and owner of Diyarim), and Nureli (webmaster of Salkin) were convicted on charges of “endangering state security” according to Dilshat’s brother, Dilmerat, another webmaster of Diyarim who currently resides in England and received information from sources inside East Turkestan. [1] The Chinese authorities have accused Shabnam, Diyarim, and Salkin, as well as other Uyghur-language websites, of helping to foment the unrest in Urumchi, the regional capital, in July 2009. [2] According to Dilmurat Perhat, the three men were sentenced after a series of closed trials that took place on July 23rd or July 24th [3] around the same time that Uyghur journalist and website editor Gheyret Niyaz was sentenced to fifteen years in prison [4].

“We ask the international community to condemn the persecution and sentencing of Uyghur webmasters Nijat Azat, Dilshat Perhat, and Nureli as further efforts by the Chinese authorities to stem the free flow of information and instill fear in the Uyghur people in order to deter them from exercise their freedom of speech,” said Rebiya Kadeer, the President of the World Uyghur Congress, a former prisoner of conscience, and multiple-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

Dilmurat Perhat told the Uyghur American Association (UAA) (www.uyghuramerican.org), one of the World Uyghur Congress’ member organizations, that his brother Dilshat had repeatedly deleted postings on Diyarim’s message board that advertised the peaceful protest planned for July 5, 2009 in Urumchi and that Dilshat had contacted the Chinese police multiple times to inform them about the postings.  Dilmurat further told UAA that Dilshat had told him that the police had responded that he should not worry as they knew about the plans for the demonstration. [5]

Dilmurat informed UAA, as well as Radio Free Asia, that he had decided to speak about his brother’s case after learning of his sentencing recently.  He said that he had refrained from speaking about his brother’s case for a period of time because the Chinese authorities had threatened his family members that his brother’s situation would worsen if they spoke out about his case. [6]

According to Dilmurat, his brother was initially detained on August 7th.  It is unclear when Nureli and Nijat Azat were detained, but both were detained in the aftermath and in connection with the July 2009 incidents. [7] The Chinese authorities have claimed that Shabnam, Diyarim, Salkin, and other Uyghur-language websites helped to foment the July 2009 unrest because they had helped to advertise the Uyghur demonstration planned for July 5th (which was peaceful and brutally suppressed by Chinese security forces) and/or because they had reported on the killing of at least two but possibly several dozen Uyghur migrant workers at a toy factory in Shaoguan in Guangdong province. [8] The government’s inaction in response to the killings had been the spark for the Uyghur protest on July 5th. [9] The Chinese government shut down the Shabnam, Diyarim, Salkin, and many other Uyghur-language websites after the July 2009 incidents [10], while simultaneously implementing an information blackout in the region that denied residents internet and e-mailing services and text messaging and international phone calling capabilities for many months [11].  Nijat Azat, Dilshat Perhat, and Nureli were among numerous webmasters, bloggers, and journalists who were detained in the aftermath of the July 2009 incidents.  [12]

The three men were tried under conditions of lack of due process created by the authorities for defendants prosecuted in connection with the July 2009 events.  These conditions have included the authorities:  giving judges and prosecutors special instructions on how to handle the July 5th cases; hand-picking the judicial personnel assigned to the trials according to political criteria; warning human rights lawyers against taking protest-related cases; and making public statements that have put political pressure on courts to mete out death sentences and other severe sentences. [13] Dilshat was reportedly provided with a government-appointed attorney, but it was unclear whether the other two men had legal representation. [14]

The vague and arbitrary provision in China’s Criminal Law of “endangering state security” on which the men were prosecuted and convicted has regularly been used by the authorities criminalize Uyghurs’ peaceful exercise of their human rights and prosecute and imprison them.  The authorities use of this charge against Uyghurs has drastically increased in recent years.  The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China noted that in 2008, the number of trials in XUAR courts involving ESS crimes and the number of indictments involving ESS crimes issued by the XUAR procuratorate offices approached the nationwide totals from 2007. [15] It is unclear where the men are being held and there has been no official announcement of the sentencings. [16]

Endnotes

[1] See “China jails three Uighur webmasters: report  (http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100729/tc_afp/chinaxinjiangmediainternetrights), AFP (published on Yahoo! News website), July 29, 2010; Uyghur American Association (UAA) (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (www.uyghuramerican.org//articles/4861/1/Uyghur-American-Association-strongly-condemns-the-sentencing-of-three-Uyghur-webmasters/index.html), July 29, 2010; “Uyghur Webmasters Sentenced”

(www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/webmasters-07282010170425.html), Radio Free Asia (RFA) (online), July 28, 2010.

[2] See “Uyghur Webmasters Sentenced” (see endnote 1 for web link), RFA (online), July 28, 2010; World Uyghur Congress (WUC) (online), “World Uyghur Congress Condemns 15-year Sentence Handed Down to Uyghur Journalist and Website Editor Gheyret Niyaz” (press release) (www.uyghurcongress.org/en/?p=3468), July 24, 2010 (for citations to additional sources).

 

[3] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010.

[4] See WUC (online), “World Uyghur Congress Condemns 15-year Sentence Handed Down to Uyghur Journalist and Website Editor Gheyret Niyaz” (press release) (see endnote 2 for web link), July 24, 2010.

 

[5] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010.

[6] See “Uyghur Webmasters Sentenced” (see endnote 2 for web link), RFA (online), July 28, 2010.

[7] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010.

[8] SeeUyghur Webmasters Sentenced” (see endnote 2 for web link), RFA (online), July 28, 2010; Alexa Oleson, “China Sentences Uighur Writer to 15 Years in Jail” (www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gSjMTGA_93sjHUt2y3ACaI8ak7vQD9H4P8FG0), Associated Press (AP) (published on Google), July 24, 2010; Amnesty International (AI) (online), “China: Uighur Journalist Detained, Risks Torture” (Urgent Action) (www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/china-sentences-uighur-journalist-15-year-prison-term-2010-07-23), Oct. 30, 2009; Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom (online), “Concern about harsh crackdown following Xinjiang rioting” (http://en.rsf.org/china-concern-about-harsh-crackdown-08-07-2009,33757.html), July 8, 2009.

[9] See AI (online), “Justice, Justice.  The July 2009 Protests in Xinjiang, China” (www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/027/2010/en/425679a8-6fde-40b5-a38b-83699e5ac1bc/asa170272010en.pdf), July 2010, p. 5; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State (online), “2009 Human Rights Report:  China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)” (www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135989.htm), Mar. 11, 2010.

[10] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010. Alexa Oleson, “China Sentences Uighur Writer to 15 Years in Jail” (see endnote 8 for website link), Associated Press (AP) (published on Google), July 24, 2010; AI (online), “China: Uighur Journalist Detained, Risks Torture” (Urgent Action) (see endnote 8 for website link), Oct. 30, 2009.

[11] See WUC (online), “World Uyghur Congress Condemns 15-year Sentence Handed Down to Uyghur Journalist and Website Editor Gheyret Niyaz” (press release) (see endnote 2 for web link), July 24, 2010.

[12] See id.

[13] See id.

[14] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010.

 

[15] See WUC (online), “World Uyghur Congress Condemns 15-year Sentence Handed Down to Uyghur Journalist and Website Editor Gheyret Niyaz” (press release) (see endnote 2 for web link), July 24, 2010.

[16] See UAA (online), “Uyghur American Association Strongly Condemns the Sentencing of Three Uyghur Webmasters” (press release) (see endnote 1 for web link), July 29, 2010.