Uyghur American Association condemns sentences handed down to 20 Uyghurs

For immediate release
March 27, 2013, 6:40 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns the sentencing of 20 Uyghurs on charges of separatism and terrorism at five hearings in Kashgar and Bayingolin Prefectures. UAA believes the sentences reflect a Chinese government move to increase control over information that contradicts an official narrative of conditions in East Turkestan.

The sentences, ranging from five years to life imprisonment, were announced in the Chinese government media outlet, Tianshan Net on March 26, 2013. Four cases were heard at Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court and one at Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture (BMAP) Intermediate People’s Court. 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.

“These sentences are intended to scare Uyghur people from discovering an alternative account of events in their homeland and is a violation of their right to freedom of information. Uyghurs in East Turkestan rightfully do not believe Chinese state propaganda that tells them their misery is quite the opposite. In the saturated media environment of the information age found in many places of the world, the Uyghurs are living in the dark about what is happening to their people. It is no wonder they look for non-government sources of news,” said UAA President, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC. “This move is part of a long history of Chinese government pressure and it should push the international community into asking Chinese officials why the Uyghur people have been the target of systemic state intimidation.”

The five cases reported by Tianshan on March 26, 2013 detailed the following crimes and sentences given to these Uyghur men:

  • Kadirjan Omer sentenced to life for organizing and leading a terrorist group; Memtimin Bekri sentenced to life imprisonment for organizing a terrorist group; Yasinjan Semet sentenced to 15 years for organizing a terrorist group; Tohti Baki, Iminjan Memettursun, Emetjan Abliz, Alim Baki and Kerim Ghopur sentenced to between five years to ten years for participating in a terrorist group.
  • Rozi Barat sentenced to life for the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group, as well as disorderly conduct; Abdukerim Abliz sentenced to life for the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group, as well as disorderly conduct; Yusuf Emet Rozi Niyaz, Nurmemet Rahman and Turghunjan Tursun sentenced to 12 years to 14 years for participating in a terrorist group and disorderly conduct.
  • Memet Ehmet sentenced to 15 years for organizing and leading a terrorist group; Ehmetjan Ehet sentenced to 13 years for organizing and leading a terrorist group and also illegally crossing the border; Mehmut Tursun sentenced to 10 years for participating in a terrorist group and illegally crossing the border.
  • Mehmut Abliz sentenced to 15 years for organizing and leading a terrorist group; Abdukerim Ghopur sentenced to 10 years for participating in a terrorist organization; Yasin Tursun sentenced to 9 years for participating in a terrorist organization.
  • Kerim Memet sentenced to 10 years for splittism and undermining national unity by creating an online chatroom to spread ethnic separatism, violent terrorism and religious extremism. This case was heard in BMAP.

World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilshat Raxit told UHRP he had received information that the 19 men in Kashgar had downloaded YouTube videos and audio from the Radio Free Asia websites, presumably through a virtual private network or VPN, which allows Internet users in China to circumvent Chinese government control over websites people can use. Raxit added that according to his source the men had not been aware of each other’s accessing of prohibited websites. The harsh sentencing of Kerim Memet is particularly egregious as his alleged crime of setting up a website has been conflated with alleged violent crimes committed by the Uyghur men in Kashgar. Uyghurs who access Radio Free Asia broadcasts or possess banned DVDs have been detained in the past. UHRP has spoken to Uyghurs whose relatives were arrested for listening to Radio Free Asia broadcasts after unrest in July 2009.

Comments from Pan Zhiping, a researcher at the Office of Xinjiang Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicate the nervousness of Chinese officials over losing control of information distribution. In a Global Times article dated March 28, 2013, Pan said: “The use by terrorists and separatists of new forms of media has become a trend and surveillance of these activities should be tightened...The police have already set up an Internet security brigade and it has solved some problems...The supervision of virtual private network (VPN) services is needed as they are easily accessible.”

Raxit also told UHRP that although the cases in Kashgar had been heard in public, investigative procedures prior to the hearings remained undisclosed and during the investigation period the accused were not given access to a lawyer. Raxit said the men had been arrested “months ago.”

In a New York Times article dated March 27, 2013, Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas Bequelin is quoted as saying: “It’s not clear what is being alleged against these people beyond being members of a clandestine organization… China has for a long time conflated religious activities taking place outside of state control with extremism…There’s been so many unsupported accusations by the Chinese government about extremist Islamic activities and terrorist activities in Xinjiang that it makes its difficult to have faith in these kinds of announcements.”

The Chinese government often conflates Islam with terrorism in order to justify repression of the Uyghur people. Citing a survey undertaken by AP, the Uighurbiz website 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.”

The use of legal means to curb Uyghur dissent was also recorded by human rights NGO, Dui Hua in an analysis of Endangering State Security (ESS) crimes in China, which include “splittism” and “inciting splitism.”  An article dated February 28, 2013 detailed how “between 2008 and 2010, Xinjiang, which accounts for less than 2 percent of China’s population, accounted for 50 percent of the nation’s first-instance ESS trials. Given that splittism is the focus of stability maintenance in the region, the great majority of defendants in these trials is almost certain to be Uyghur.”

See also:

South China Morning Post/AFP: Twenty jailed in restive Xinjiang region for ‘inciting secession’

Washington Post/AP: China imprisons 20 Uighurs in far west Xinjiang on terrorism, separatism charges

Reuters: China jails 20 on jihad, separatism charges in restive Xinjiang

BBC Chinese: 中国以分裂国家罪重判20名维族男子

Tianshan Net: 严惩利用互联网、手机和电子存储介质进行犯罪活动

Tianshan Net: [评论]严厉打击用网络、手机及电子储备介质犯罪的活动

Renmin Net:20名被告人参加恐怖组织分裂国家被判刑

Appendix: UHRP Translation of Tianshan Net Report: 新疆20名煽动分裂国家、策划暗杀干警等嫌犯获刑
Article source: http://www.ts.cn/law/content/2013-03/27/content_7967476.htm

5 trials in Xinjiang in which Internet, mobile phones and electronic storage devices were used to commit crimes
20 jailed

www.ts.cn Tianshan Net March 26, 2013

Tianshan Net (By Sui Yunyan) March 26 - Two courts in Kashgar Prefecture and Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture held five public trials in which the Internet, mobile phones and electronic storage devices were used in crimes to organize, lead and participate in terrorist organizations, provoke disputes and incite splittism, and 20 defendants including Kadirjan Omer were sentenced to life imprisonment and limited prison terms.

The Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People's Court held a public trial with eight defendants including, Kadirjan Omer, Memtimin Bekri, Yasinjan Semet, Tohti Baki, Iminjan Memettursun, Emetjan Abliz, Alim Baki, and Kerim Ghopur who have been seduced by extremist religious terrorist ideology, and for the purpose of violent terrorist activities like “jihad” and “migration,” on numerous occasions used cell phones, watched DVDs and spread religious extremist and violent terrorist audio-visual productions of violent terrorist organizations including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and used numerous electronic storage devices and SD cards to spread information and carry out illegal tablig activities. (Translator’s note: tablig is an informal religious discussion led by a layperson).  Three defendants were organizers, Kadirjan Omer, Memtimin Bekri and Yasinjan Semet, regular members of a violent terrorist organization whose group actively organized violent terrorist trainings, purchased guns, plotted to assassinate grassroots level cadres, and raised funds to arrange a path for “migration.” The court sentenced Kadirjan Omer to life imprisonment and indefinite suspension of political rights for the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist organization; for the crime of organizing a terrorist organization, Memtimin Bekri received life imprisonment with indefinite suspension of political rights and Yasinjan Semet received a 15-year sentence and suspension of political rights for 5 years; and for the crime of participating in a terrorist group Tohti Baki, Iminjan Memettursun, Emetjan Abliz, Alim Baki, and Kerim Ghopur received 10-year to 5-year sentences, and suspension of political rights for 3 years to 2 years.

The Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People's Court held a public trial with defendants Rozi Barat and Abdukerim Abliz, who for the purpose of conducting violent terrorist activities like “jihad” and “migration” on numerous occasions organized and convened the three defendants Yusuf Emet Rozi Niyaz, Nurmemet Rahman, and Turghunjan Tursun to watch, listen and disseminate materials related to violent terrorist activities of violent terrorist organizations including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, to assemble to conduct illegal tablig activities and to carry violent terrorist physical training, organized by the defendants Rozi Barat and Abdukerim Abliz as the leaders of the violent terrorist organization,  and recklessly beating innocent bystanders, smashing cars and motorcycles, stealing property, and seriously disrupting social order. For the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group as well as disorderly conduct, the court sentenced Rozi Barat and Abdukerim Abliz to life imprisonment and indefinite suspension of political rights; for the crimes of participating in a terrorist group and disorderly conduct Yusuf Emet, Rozi Niyaz, Nurmemet Rahman and Turghunjan Tursun received 14 years to 12 years, and suspension of political rights for 3 years.

The Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People's Court held a public trial with defendants Memet Ehmet and Ehmetjan Ehet, who in order to conduct violent terrorist activities like “jihad” and “migration” organized on numerous occasions for defendant Mehmut Tursun to watch, listen and disseminate materials involving violent terrorist activities of violent terrorist organizations including the East Turkestan Movement and Uzbekistan Islamic Movement, to assemble to conduct illegal tablig activities, and to distribute religious extremist and violent terrorist content, organized by Memet Ehmet and Ehmetjan Ehet as the leaders of the violent terrorist group, and also raised funds for “migration” to illegally cross the border. For the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group, the court sentenced Memet Ehmet to 15 years and suspension of political rights for 5 years; for the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group and also illegally crossing the border Ehmetjan Ehet was given 13 years, suspension of political rights for 4 years, and a fine of 5,000 RMB; and for the crime of participating in a terrorist group and illegally crossing the border, Mehmut Tursun was given 10 years, suspension of political rights for 3 years, and a fine of 5,000 RMB.

The Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People's Court held a public trial with defendants Mehmut Abliz,Abdukerim Ghopur and Yasin Tursun who in order to implement violent terrorist activities, on numerous occasions collected, watched, and copied materials involving violent terrorist activities of violent terrorist organizations including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, actively accepted others who carried out illegal tablig, became the regular members of a violent terrorist group, collected funds, shared information on producing explosives and tested explosives. For the crime of organizing and leading a terrorist group, the court sentenced Mehmut Abliz to 15 years with suspension of political rights for 5 years, and confiscated all of his illegal tools; for participating in a terrorist organization the court sentenced Abdukerim Ghopur and Yasin Tursun to 10 years and 9 years with suspension of political rights for 3 years.

Bazhou Intermediate People's Court held a trial for defendant Kerim Memet for splittism and undermining national unity by starting an online chatroom to spread ethnic separatism, violent terrorism and religious extremism, and organizing others to read online, disseminate and discuss reactionary views. For the crime of inciting splittism, the court sentenced Kerim Memet to 10 years imprisonment, with suspension of political rights for 5 years, and in accordance with the law confiscated the illegal books and electronic storage devices that Kerim Memet used for his reactionary propaganda.

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