East Turkestan: Whereabouts of Prisoner Unknown
Huseyin Celil's whereabouts in China are unknown and Beijing refuses to tell Canadian Foreign Affairs officials where the imprisoned Canadian is being held.
Below is an article written by Omar El Akkad and published by the Globe and Mail:
Two years ago yesterday [27 March 2008], a Canadian citizen was arrested in Uzbekistan and was sent to China, where he was eventually sentenced to life in prison on terrorism allegations.
Today, Huseyin Celil's whereabouts in China are unknown and Beijing refuses to tell Canadian Foreign Affairs officials where the imprisoned Canadian is being held, friends and family say.
Mr. Celil's wife, his Canadian lawyer and Amnesty International jointly sent a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday [27 March 2008] - the second anniversary of Mr. Celil's arrest - pleading for the Canadian government to intensify efforts on his behalf. Advocates for Mr. Celil are asking for a high-level Canadian envoy to lead those efforts.
"Prime Minister, we call on you to renew and fortify Canada's efforts to ensure Mr. Celil's human rights are protected," the letter states. "We appreciated the concern and action demonstrated by the government in the past, including by you personally, but are concerned Canada's attention to Mr. Celil's fate appears to have waned."
Mr. Celil, a member of the Muslim Uyghur minority in China, was travelling on a Canadian passport when he was arrested in Uzbekistan. Chinese authorities accused him of terrorism and charged him with engaging in violent separatist activities. He has vehemently denied the charges against him. His supporters claim he did nothing more than speak up for the basic rights of Uyghurs.
In April of last year , Mr. Celil was sentenced to life in prison. In violation of international agreements, Beijing has refused to grant Canadian officials access to him.
And according to the letter to the Prime Minister, Canadian authorities now don't even know where he is.
The Department of Foreign Affairs could not immediately confirm yesterday [27 March 2008] that a diplomatic note had been sent to Beijing asking for information on Mr. Celil's whereabouts.
Just a few months ago, Mr. Celil's supporters said his sister was able to visit him in a prison in northwest China. However, yesterday's letter says Mr. Celil's family tried to visit him on March 7 , but were told he was no longer at the prison, and to return in three months.
The letter to the Prime Minister is clearly framed in the context of the Beijing Olympics and the increased scrutiny of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.