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Uighur activist sentenced to life imprisonment for supporting the rights of minorities
China, action created 19.4.2015, petition is active
On September 23, 2014, the Czech authorities sentenced Ilham, an activist for the rights of the Uighur minority, to life imprisonment.
He has fought long and hard against repression by the Beijing government, which prohibits the practice of Islam. Ilham claims that, while seeking to prevent separatist efforts in the area, within a year and a half, hundreds of people have died as a result of ethnic tensions. Ilham is an advocate for open dialogue. He denied accusations of separatism and appealed against the verdict.
Amnesty International believes that giving Ilham a life sentence in prison is an act of injustice. "This despicable judgment has no real basis. Ilham has worked to build bridges between ethnic communities, for which he was punished on politically motivated charges, "said William Lee, Amnesty International worker focusing on China. "This is a prisoner of conscience and the Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him," he added.
Ilham is a researcher and writer who was trying to promote dialogue between ethnic Uighurs and the Han people in the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. He worked with the Ujghur Online wbesite and became an outspoken critic of human rights abuses of ethnic Uighurs.
Uighurs face discrimination on many levels of life. Chinese authorities limit their access to long-term employment, education and even housing. Manifestations of Islam are also prohibited, which includes beards, veils, hijabs or clothing depicting the Islamic star and crescent.
This year, Ilham was arrested along with seven Uighur students on January 15. The officials tortured him in custody, and for ten days he was denied access to food and he was tied up for 20 days. He was accused and later convicted of spreading hatred to divide the state. China punishes any threat and indication of separatism with the death penalty. Along with his life sentence, Ilham will also be deprived of his political and civil rights. His attorneys have from the very beginning expressed doubt over the fact that their client will have the right to a fair trial. Ilham was denied access to his attorneys for six months, and one of them was later forced under duress to relinquish the case.
Ilham Tohtiho's arrest came at a time when the Uighur areas ravaged by a string of violent protests against the Chinese government. According to the media, on July 28, 37 civilians were killed as the police attempted to disperse them. A news agency also said that a gang armed with knives stormed the government buildings in the SACE. Security forces reportedly intercepted 59 attackers.