Submission to UN on Seven Students of Ilham Tohti – December 5, 2014Comments Off on Submission to UN on Seven Students of Ilham Tohti – December 5, 2014
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Special Rapporteur on minority issues
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Communiqué on Behalf of Seven Students of Ilham Tohti: Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Abduqeyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi, Akbar Imin, Mutellip Imin, & Luo Yuwei, Citizens of the People’s Republic of China,
Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Violation of the rights of minorities, Freedom of Expression, and Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders
Mr. Perhat Halmurat (帕哈提·哈力木拉提), ethnic Uyghur, is a graduate student of Ilham Tohti, an economic professor at Central Nationalities University of China (in Beijing), who was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism” in September 2014. Before he was detained, Mr. Halmurat had been volunteering as an editor for Uyghur Online, a website founded by Ilham Tohti in 2006 aiming at giving Uyghur people a voice in civil society and facilitating communications and mutual understanding between Han Chinese and Uyghurs. In September 2013, Halmurat was intercepted at Beijing Capital International Airport when he was preparing to fly to Istanbul University to study anthropology. Police detained him for 16 hours for “attempting to escape the country.”
Mr. Shohret Nijat (肖克来提·尼加提), ethnic Uyghur, is a student of Ilham Tohti at Central Nationalities University of China and had been working as a volunteer for Uyghur Online. Previously, in June 2013, Xinjiang security police took him into custody for 28 hours. According to Nijat, the police interrogated him about his work for Uyghur Online, the operation and staff of this website, and also confiscated his computers, mobile phone, and other personal property.
Mr. Abduqeyum Ablimit (阿卜杜凯尤木· 阿不力米提), ethnic Uyghur, is a student of Ilham Tohti of Central Nationalities University of China and had also been working as a volunteer for Uyghur Online.
Ms. Atikem Rozi (阿提克木· 如孜), ethnic Uyghur, 23 years old, was studying at Central Nationalities University of China when she was taken into custody. In February 2013, Rozi and her mother were detained and interrogated by Xinjiang security officers for six hours after she had posted online about her experience of being denied a passport by Chinese authorities (without any particular stated reason) three times between 2010 and 2012. Her online posting attracted much support from both Uyghurs and Han Chinese.
Mr. Akbar Imin (阿可拜尔· 阿敏), ethnic Uyghur, 32 years old, graduated from Central Nationalities University of China in 2006. Then he started working for China’s largest HIV/AIDS NGO, Aizhixing Insitute’s Uyghur Migrant Health Education and Rights Protection program. In 2009, Imin went to work for the ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development, which was based in Beijing and dedicated to Uyghur migrants.
Mr. Mutellip Imin (穆塔里普· 依明), ethnic Uyghur, 25 years old, was Ilham Tohti’s student and worked as a volunteer for Uyghur Online when he was an undergraduate at Central Nationalities University of China. In July 2013, when he was about to fly to Turkey to continue his postgraduate study, he was intercepted at Beijing Capital International Airport and disappeared for one week after police took him away. Later, he was held under police custody for another 79 days. Upon his release, police confiscated his passport.
Mr. Luo Yuwei (罗玉伟), ethnic Yi, is Ilham Tohti’s student at Central Nationalities University of China and had been working as a volunteer for Uyghur Online. He was mainly responsible for designing and maintaining the website.
II. Detention, Arrest and Trial
Between January 15 and 17, 2014, after Uyghur writer and academic Ilham Tohti was taken into police custody, police in Beijing also detained six of his students (or former students) at Central Nationalities University of China: Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Abduqeyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi, Mutellip Imin, and Luo Yuwei. On January 15, a seventh, Akbar Imin, was detained in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, where he was attending a funeral.
On February 24, 2014, authorities informed the families of Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Tursun, and Abdukeyum Ablimit that these three individuals had been formally arrested, but authorities refused to disclose where they were being held. The charge against Mr. Halmurat and Mr. Tursun was “separatism,” while the charge against Mr. Ablimit was “leaking state secrets.” Families of the other four students did not get any information from the authorities. All the seven students have been held incommunicado until now.
On September 23, after a two-day trial, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Ilham Tohti to life in prison for “separatism.” No information on the seven students could be obtained until September 25, when China’s state television, CCTV (China Central Television) broadcasted a short video clip in which Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, and Luo Yuwei described how their teacher, Ilham Tohti, had threatened and coerced them to work for Uyghur Online. However, the validity of these statements is highly questionable. According to Mr. Tohti attorney, Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), there was no evidence supporting the students’ denouncement, and Luo’s “confession” in particular included many contradictions. Also, some lawyers and human rights NGOs have expressed the concern that the students’ broadcasted statements against Tohti were very likely extracted through torture or inhumane treatment. This would follow a recent pattern of “confessions” being made under duress by some detained activists or outspoken critics of the Chinese government.
On November 25, 2014, the seven students were put on trial at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court in Xinjiang on the charge of “separatism.” Their families received no information on their trials until the day before, and the court did not make public any information on the proceedings. Also, no information on the seven students’ attorneys is publicly available. According to lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, when reviewing the case file as he was preparing his defense of Ilham Tohti, he saw that Akbar Imin had requested repeatedly to appoint a lawyer but the police did not convey this message to Imin’s family. According to another attorney of Ilham Tohti, Li Fangping (李方平), at least three students pleaded not guilty at trial, yet all of them are “almost certain to receive jail terms.” It is believed that the verdicts will be announced soon.
Date submitted: December 5, 2014
The Intermediate People’s Court of Urumchi announced verdicts of the first instance trial against the seven students on December 8, 2014. All seven students were convicted of “separatism.” One student was sentenced to eight years in prison, two were sentenced to seven years in prison, and another one was sentenced to three years. It is not clear about the terms of the other three students but they were likely sentenced to three to six years in prison.