Huseyin Celil

Charge: “Terrorism”
Sentence: Life (reduced to unknown fixed term sentence on February 1, 2016)
Location: Xinjiang No. 1 Prison


Huseyin Celil was formerly a charismatic Imam based in Toronto, and became a Canadian citizen in November 2005. He originally fled from the Chinese authorities in the late 1990s, after having served a prison term on charges related to founding a political party.

Upon being granted his Canadian citizenship, Mr. Celil went to Uzbekistan to try and meet with the parents of his wife, who is originally from Uzbekistan. However, he was detained by Uzbek authorities in March 2006 when he tried to renew his visa, reportedly at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities who wanted to question him in connection with crimes committed in Kyrgyzstan in the year 2000. Celil's detention occurred despite the fact that he was unequivocally cleared of any involvement in those crimes, as he was in Turkey under the protection of the UNHCR at the time. Chinese authorities subsequently secured his repatriation from Uzbekistan in June 2006.

Chinese authorities claim that Mr. Celil was involved in “terrorist” activities, although it is not publicly known what he is suspected of actually doing to warrant this accusation. Human rights groups believe that Mr. Celil has been charged with alleged terrorist crimes in response to the peaceful political activities he engaged in before he left East Turkistan.

Issue (counter-terror):

Since 9/11, Chinese authorities have used the “war on terror” as a pretext to intensify its repression of Uyghurs by branding all Uyghur political opposition as being terrorist, separatist, or inspired by religious extremism.

The Chinese government exploits the Uyghurs’ faith in Islam in order to justify this repression. A survey undertaken by AP, cited in an article dated September 4, 2011, highlighted an increase in terror arrests worldwide in the decade after 9/11. Of the 66 countries surveyed, accounting for 70% of the world’s population, China was one of two countries accounting for half of the 35,117 terror related convictions recorded. The AP article concluded “dozens of countries are using the fight against terrorism to curb political dissent.”

At the annual plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) held from March 5-13, 2015 China adopted a draft counterterrorism law that Human Rights Watch has criticized as a “recipe for abuses.”

Read UHRP’s report China’s “War on Terror” Under Xi Jinping and State Policy in East Turkestan for more details on China’s repressive counterterror policies.

Get involved:

Sign UHRP’s petition to release all 8 prisoners in this campaign
Write for Rights: Protect the Legal and Physical Rights of a Uighur Activist (Amnesty International Canada)
Protect the rights of Huseyin Celil (Amnesty International Canada)
Prisoner of Conscience: Huseyin Celil (Amnesty International Canada, Oakville)

Read/listen/watch on:

Prisoner Profile: Huseyin Celil Human Rights in China (2006)
Free Huseyin Celil (July 1, 2008)
Trials of Huseyin Celil (The Globe and Mail: March 13, 2009)
‘Pray for me,’ Celil asks in first letter from prison(The Globe and Mail: March 30, 2009)
Celil’s family had given up hope (The Globe and Mail: March 31, 2009)
Celil allowed to meet with mother, sister (The Globe and Mail: March 31, 2009)