Harsh sentencing of Uyghurs sends message of fear before fourth anniversary of July 5, 2009 unrest

For immediate release
June 20, 2013, 5:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) expresses condemnation at the sentencing of 19 Uyghurs in Kizilsu, Aksu, Turpan and Karghilik on a number of charges, including terror related accusations, related to information gathered, stored and disseminated electronically. UAA believes the sentences, handed down two weeks before the fourth anniversary of deadly unrest that broke out in the regional capital of Urumchi, is a clear signal to Uyghurs across East Turkestan to curb any public commemorative displays of the July 5, 2009 suppression of Uyghur protests.

In two articles released on July 20, 2013, the Legal Daily reported:

  • Kizilsu Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Mehsut Namat and Yasenjan Memet to prison for five years, six months and five years respectively for inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination.
  • Aksu Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Alim Memet and Eli Tohniyaz to 13 and 10-year prison terms for organizing a terrorist organization.
  • Aksu Intermediate People’s Court sentenced three defendants, including Eli Samsaq to 4 to 6 years in prison for participating in a terrorist organization.
  • Turpan Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Pettar Litip to 11 years, Sattar Litip to 8 years and Nalihan Abdurahman to 7 years in prison for participating in a terrorist group.
  • Aksu Prefecture Intermediate People's Court sentenced Ehtem Heli to six years in prison for inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination.
  • Karghilik County People’s Court sentenced Memetimin Tursun and seven others to prison terms ranging between two to five years for disorderly behavior.

The activities cited by the courts in some of the cases above included: storing audio recordings on a cell phone and media card (in the case of Mehsut Namat); duplicating files on a computer and transmitting them via Bluetooth (in the case of Yasenjan Memet); copying media files on cell phone media cards and storing MP4 recordings (in the case of Eli Samsaq); uploading content to a microblog (in the case of Eli Tohniyaz); and browsing “illegal” websites, as well as downloading “illegal” recordings and eBooks (in the case of Ehtem Heli).

6 other Uyghurs were sentenced to administrative detention ranging from 5 to 15 days in Urumchi, Maralbeshi, Aksu and Uchturpan for activities such as uploading audio files, “spreading rumors” via a QQ group, storing files on media cards and cell phones, as well as purchasing “illegal” books and CDs.

“There are a number of troubling aspects to these sentences. First of all, China has a track record of conducting trials that fall far below international standards. The lack of any details surrounding the arrest, pre-trial detention and legal case presented against these men means we have to view these convictions with the utmost suspicion,” said UAA president Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC. “China is well-known for conflating legitimate Uyghur dissent to its brutal policies with terrorism. It is not unreasonable to think the information the men downloaded was nothing more than harmless material with content that differs from the Chinese government narrative of conditions in East Turkestan. Given the timing of this news, it is realistic to conclude the Chinese authorities are sending a message intended to silence the Uyghur people as the anniversary of the July 5 killings approaches.”

Details on the total number of Uyghurs jailed and sentenced to administrative detention varied between Chinese and overseas media sources. Both Reuters and the Voice of America reported the sentencing of 19 men. While the China Daily stated nine men had been jailed and one given administrative detention. In Chinese and English language versions of its reporting in the sentencing, the BBC wrote that nine men had been jailed and two men were to serve administrative sentences. A widely published article from the Associated Press claimed similar numbers. The cited source for the information contained in these reports is the Legal Daily, which also provided information on the cases in two separate articles. In the first article, dated June 20, 2013 and released at 11:17am, the Xinjiang edition of the Legal Daily reported 9 men had been jailed and 2 sentenced to “administrative detention.” A second article, issued the same day at 7:11pm on the main Legal Daily website, states 10 men were jailed and 4 sentenced to administrative detention.

In March 2013, Chinese courts sentenced 20 Uyghurs on similar charges at five hearings in Kashgar and Bayingolin Prefectures. The sentences ranged from five years to life imprisonment. The Uyghur men were accused of using the Internet, cell phones and digital storage devices to organize, lead and participate in a terrorist organization with the intent to “incite splittism.” However, World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilshat Raxit contended the men did nothing more than download and view videos from YouTube and audio from the Radio Free Asia Uyghur service.

On July 5, 2009, in the city of Urumchi, Uyghur men, women and children peacefully assembled in People’s Square to protest government inaction over a deadly attack on Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province.

The details of what happened that day, and over the following months, have been unclear. What is known is that the city erupted into unprecedented unrest that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of people. In line with accounts provided by UHRP in its report, Amnesty International’s report on the unrest in Urumchi provides accounts of the deaths of Uyghurs at the hands of security forces on July 5. In the immediate aftermath of the July 2009 unrest, the Chinese government separately blamed anyone from Uyghur overseas forces, mobsters, plotters, separatists and terrorists for fomenting the unrest.

Since July 5, 2009, Chinese officials have spared no effort to silence and intimidate Uyghur voices, and have actively sought to suppress information that contradicts the official narrative. A 10-month communications blackout and harsh punishments for Uyghur webmasters and journalists aided official efforts to manage and control information emerging from the region.

Appendix 1: UHRP Translation: Xinjiang legally handles a group of criminal cases involving the Internet, poisoning and incitement by illegal religious activities - 11 people brought to justice

Online: http://xj.legaldaily.com.cn/content/2013-06/20/content_4575438.htm?node=31262

Published: 2013-06-20 11:17:31

Legal Daily Web, Urumqi, June 19 by Pan Cong Wu. Today, People’s Courts in Xinjiang’s Aksu and Kashgar publicly ruled in two cases involving use of the Internet to incite ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination, poisoning and incitement by illegal religious activities, and 9 defendants including Ehtem Heli received limited prison terms. At the same time, Xinjiang Bachu County and Urumqi City Public Security Bureau investigated and handled a group of criminal cases using the Internet to spread religious extremist ideology, fabricate rumors, and disturb social order, and A Doe and Gu Doe were given administrative penalties. (Translator’s note: In both articles, the surname Doe is used to indicate anonymity, translated from the Chinese term Mou)

Aksu Prefecture Intermediate People's Court found in a public hearing that in November 2011, defendant Ehtem Heli on multiple occasions browsed illegal websites, downloaded recordings and eBooks which contained content that promoted religious fanaticism, agitated for “jihad” and “migration” and incited ethnic hatred, and since October 2012 on multiple occasions uploaded the contents he had downloaded to the DouDing website, intentionally led others to browse, download and create an ill effect on society. The court of law sentenced Ehtem Heli for inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination to a 6 year limited term, and deprivation of political rights for 3 years.

The Karghilik County People's Court in a public hearing found that on February 16, 2013, 8 defendants including Memetimin Tursun acted under the influence of illegal religious activities, and poisoned and incited by religious extremist ideology, intruded into over 10 homes in a village in Qaghiliq County, frantically smashing 17 televisions. The court of law sentenced the 8 defendants including Memetimin Tursun for the crime of disorderly behavior to prison for 5 to 2 years limited term.

The Maralbeshi County Public Security Bureau found that, in April 2013, A Doe used a personal blog of a certain website to upload violent terrorist audio files produced by an overseas terrorist organization, to promote religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, to promote disharmony in ethnic relations, incite ethnic hatred, and have an ill effect on society. In accordance with the article 47 of the "PRC Public Security Administration Punishment Law," the Maralbeshi County Public Security Bureau imposed 15 days of administrative detention on A Doe with a fine of 500 yuan.

The Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau found that on May 21, 2013, Gu Doe  fabricated rumors in a QQ group, spread a rumor about a "suicide bombing explosion,” causing a certain degree of social panic, and disrupt the public order. In accordance with Article 25 clause 1 of the "PRC Public Security Administration Punishment Law," the Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau imposed 5 days of administrative detention on Gu Doe.

 

Appendix 2: UHRP Translation: Xinjiang legally handles multiples criminal cases involving removable storage media - 10 people jailed and four people subject to administrative penalties

Online: http://www.legaldaily.com.cn/index_article/content/2013-06/20/content_4578363.htm?node=5955

Published: 2013-06-20 19:11:35

Legal Daily Web, Urumqi, June 20 by Pan Cong Wu. Today, People’s Courts in Xinjiang’s Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, Aksu, and Turpan publicly ruled in three criminal cases involving mobile phones and removable storage media used to incite ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination and conduct violent terrorist activities, Mehsut Namat was among ten defendants sentenced to limited term imprisonment. At the same time, Public Security Bureaus in Aksu City and Uqturpan County investigated and handled a group of illegal cases of electronic storage devices used to spread religious extremist ideology and disturb social order, Nu Doe was among four lawbreakers given administrative penalties.

Xinjiang Kizilsu Intermediate People’s Court found that in August 2012, defendant Mehsut Namat stored on his personal mobile phone a media card with over 80 audio recordings which incite disharmony and ethnic relations, manufacture ethnic division, incite ethnic hatred, which were played numerous times for defendants Yasenjan Memet and others who watched, and on multiple occasions used various means to spread them including duplication on a computer and Bluetooth transmission, spreading it to the media cards in the personal cell phones of Yasenjan Memet and others. On August 12, 2012, Yasenjan Memet again on multiple times spread the aforementioned media files to be watched, duplicated, and had an ill effect on society. The court ruled that for the crimes of inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination, the two defendants will be imprisoned for 5 years and 6 months, and 5 year limited terms, and deprived political rights for two years.

Xinjiang Aksu Prefecture Intermediate People's Court found that from November 2009 to October 2011, the defendants Alim Memet and Eli Tohniyaz under the influence of religious extremism, on multiple occasions organized and assembled for the purpose of carrying out “migration” and “jihad” four defendants including Eli Samsaq to watch and duplicate media on their cell phone media cards and MP4 storage of overseas terrorist groups’ violent terrorist recordings, conduct illegal “tablig” activities. (Translator’s note: tablig is an informal religious discussion led by a layperson), share and disseminate religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and actively organize violent terrorist physical training, awaiting the opportunity to conduct a violent terrorist activity. In November 2010, in an internet café defendant Alim Memet uploaded to a microblog for others to watch and browse MP4 proclaiming “jihad” and recordings whose contents incite ethnic hatred, creating an ill effect on society.  Thus, the legal court sentenced the defendants Alim Memet and Eli Tohniyaz for the crime of organizing a terrorist organization to 13 years and 10 years limited terms; and for the crime of participating in a terrorist organization three defendants including Eli Samsaq were sentenced 6 to 4 years limited terms. Because defendant Akber Ehmet committed a minor crime and pled guilty, he was exempted from criminal punishment.

Turpan Prefecture Intermediate People's Court found the defendants Pettar Litip, Sattar Litip and Nalihan Abdurahman read and watched reactionary books and videos which contain preaching of religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, which led them to illegally cross the border with intentions of “migration” and “jihad.” In February 2013, the 3 defendants including Pettar Litip conducted business, raised funds to buy equipment, and selected Pettar Litip as the gang leader, and drove to Kashgar, illegally crossing the border. When Pettar Litip and the other defendants reached the border, they were discovered by border personnel and after they resisted violently, then they were captured. The legal court sentences defendant Pettar Litip for the crime of leading a terrorist group to a limited term of 11 years, with deprivation of political rights for 3 years; for the crime of participating in a terrorist group defendants Sattar Litip and Nalihan Abdurahman to 8 year and 7 year limited terms, with deprivation of political rights for 2 years.

Based on Xinjiang Aksu City Public Security Bureau’s investigation, in February 2013, Nu Doe used a personal cell phone and multiple media cards storage devices to copy audio files of illegal “tablig” religious extremist ideology promoting “migration” and “jihad” to give to Ai Doe. In March 2013, Ai Doe again copied and gave the aforementioned media files to Tu Doe and others, and created an ill effect on society. According to the regulations in the 47th article of the “Public Security Administration Punishments Law of the People's Republic of China,” the Aksu City Public Security Bureau imposed 15 days of administrative detention for Nu Doe, and imposed 10 days of administrative detention for Ai Doe and Tu Doe.

Based on Uqturpan County Public Security Bureau’s investigation, Tu Doe purchased books and CDs to watch containing religious extremist ideology promoting “migration” and “jihad”, and after produced copies and sold the illegal ideological books. In January 2013, Tu Doe purchased a photocopier, and was arrested at home copying and bookbinding. According to the regulations of the 27th article 2nd clause of the “Public Security Administration Punishments Law of the People's Republic of China,” the Uqturpan County Public Security Bureau imposed 13 days of administrative detention on Tu Doe with a fine of 800 yuan.

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