Aug 09, 2013

East Turkestan: Mysterious Death In Uyghur Prison

In keeping with Xinjiang authorities’ obscure handling of Uyghur prisoners, a man faced with life imprisonment has mysteriously died in jail.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia:

A Uyghur teacher sentenced to life in prison for “anti-state” activities in China’s troubled Xinjiang region has died in mysterious circumstances after serving 16 years of his term, a friend living in exile says.

Perhat Mollahun, 49, collapsed last week after being taken on a work detail and was brought to a hospital where he later died, longtime friend Behtiyar Nasir told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“The police informed his family of his death on August 3 [2013],” said Nasir, who lives in the Netherlands.

“However, they had never been told he had suffered any illnesses in jail,” he said.

Mollahun, a middle-school teacher in Qorghas county in the Ili prefecture of the far northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was arrested in 1998 during a countywide roundup of young Uyghurs suspected of engaging in activities aimed at “overthrowing state authority,” Nasir said.

Charged with involvement in the killing of a township official, Mollahun was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in a closed trial held in January 1999, but the sentence was later commuted to life.

Seven other Uyghurs, including another teacher, Abdushukur Nurulla, were sentenced to death that same year, with Nurulla executed almost immediately, Nasir said.

The jailings and sentences came almost two years after Chinese security forces opened fire on Uyghur protesters in Ili prefecture’s capital city Ghulja on February 5, 1997, killing an unknown number.

Though Mollahun was held at No. 1 Jail in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi for an unknown period after his sentencing, it is not clear where he was confined at the time of his death.

'In good health'

Friends who had visited Mollahun in jail said he was teaching classes in the jail and described him as being in good health and hopeful about his future, Nasir said.

Calls seeking comment from local authorities and from Mollahun’s family rang unanswered this week.

Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness, blaming their hardships partly on a massive influx of Han Chinese into the region.

Xinjiang has seen a string of violent incidents since June 26 [2013], leaving at least 64 dead in total, as the region marked the anniversary last month of July 5, 2009 clashes in Urumqi between the minority Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese.

The rioting left some 200 people dead and 1,700 injured, according to official media reports.