East Turkestan: The World Uyghur Congress Calls on Kazakhstan to Release Uyghur Prisoner
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) calls on the Kazakh authorities to release Noorpolat Abdulla, an Australian citizen who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for helping escaped Uyghur refugees from Chinese persecution. Mr. Abdulla was a Uyghur from East Turkestan who immigrated to Australia in the early 1980s.
"We request the government of Kazakhstan to release Noorpolat Abdulla," said Erkin Alptekin, President of WUC, "His unjustified imprisonment is not conducive to the Uyghur-Kazakh friendship in this country where there is a sizable Uyghur population."
According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Mr. Abdulla's family went public with his imprisonment on Monday after the Australian government failed to secure his release from Kazakhstan since he was sentenced in October 2001. The Kazakh authorities, denying Abdulla any consular representation from the Australian Embassy, sentenced him to 15 years in prison in a closed court on alleged charges of terrorism. ABC said Kazakhstan was under Chinese pressure to crack down Uyghur activists.
Kazakhstan, as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), has been actively cooperating with China since 1996 in cracking down all forms of peaceful Uyghur activism. According to Colin Mackerras, one of the leading Australian scholars on China, in order to conciliate China and to further their own interests, the governments of Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have sent back to China those Uyghurs trying to flee region as refugees. RFE/RL reported on November 16th that Vladimir Bozhko, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Agency, confirmed the extradition of 14 Uyghurs to China in the past six years.
In 1999, China executed three Uyghur political activists after Kazakhstan forcibly returned them in violation of international laws against refoulement. In June 2001, just four months before Abdulla's conviction, Kazakhstan, upon Chinese initiative, signed the Shanghai Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. Cracking down Uyghur activities in Central Asia was part of the Convention.
Writing for the Asia Times Online, Stephen Blank, professor of Strategic Studies Institute at U.S. Army War College, said, "At present there is little doubt that doing everything possible to consolidate Beijing's hold over XUAR is one of the drivers of Chinese policy in all dimensions in Central Asia. Thus increasing amounts of bilateral military assistance are going to these states and the signs of coordination in intelligence on terrorism are multiplying as they crack down on Uyghur movements in their homelands to retain China's friendship. Indeed, for Beijing such crackdowns have increasingly become preconditions for any kind of friendly relationship with Central Asian states and the provision of desperately needed aid."
"This is probably one of the main reasons why Kazakhstan denied Noorpolat Abdulla Australian consular representation and tried him in a closed court in order to hide its failure to produce any hard evidence against him," said Alim Seytoff, Chairman for the Executive Committee of WUC, "This kind of Soviet-style secret trial does not conform to international standard, which justifies his conviction."
WUC believes that Mr. Abdulla's imprisonment by Kazakhstan was possibly politically motivated to please China because even the presiding Kazakh judge in his first trial was so unimpressed by the evidence presented by police. Therefore, WUC demands the Kazakh authorities to release him as soon as possible. WUC also urges the Australian government to continue its efforts in securing Abdulla's release from Kazakhstan.