CHRD Protests Harsh and Unjust Sentence for Uyghur Journalist Hailaite Niyazi

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CHRD Protests Harsh and Unjust Sentence for Uyghur Journalist Hailaite Niyazi

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- July 23, 2010) On July 23, a court in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) sentenced journalist Hailaite Niyazi (whose name also sometimes appears as Hairat or Gheyret Niyaz or Niyaze) to 15 years in prison for endangering state security (CHRD has not yet learned which specific “endangering state security” crime he was convicted of). The verdict was apparently based on an interview he gave to Hong Kong media following the violence in Xinjiang during July of last year. Niyazi, who has been in detention since October 1, 2009, was reportedly tried without a lawyer present.

“The idea that Niyazi’s interview somehow ‘endangered’ state security and warranted 15 years in prison is incomprehensible,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “This is an extremely harsh and unjust action on the part of the Chinese court, and a clear violation of rights guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution.”

CHRD believes Niyazi was convicted on the basis of comments he made to a journalist from Hong Kong-based Asia Weekly, which later appeared in an article entitled “Uyghur NGO Worker, Former Xinjiang Legal News Chief Editorial Director Niyazi Provided Early Warning Before July 5 Incident.” In the article, which was published on July 23, 2009, Niyazi is quoted as saying he telephoned a friend working in the XUAR government on July 4 and met with top officials on July 5 to warn them of the potential for violence on July 5, but officials refused to take action in response to his warning. Niyazi went on in the article to comment on the nature of the riots, possible organizers, as well as the root causes of the violence. During his trial, prosecutors also brought up articles written by Niyazi prior to the July 5 riots which discussed tensions in the XUAR.

CHRD is concerned that Niyazi was denied his rights under Chinese law and that his trial was not fair according to standards set forth in international human rights law. Reportedly, he was not provided with legal representation. His trial was also very brief given the seriousness of the charge and the possible sentence: beginning the morning of July 23, his trial was concluded in less than one day.

CHRD demands the immediate release of Hailaite Niyazi. We believe he has been imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and is being retaliated against for critical comments regarding the leadership of officials in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. His actions were non-violent, well within his rights as a Chinese citizen, and did not constitute a danger to state security.

Media Contacts

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285

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