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World Uyghur Congress Condemns 15-year Sentence Handed Down to Uyghur Journalist and Website Editor Gheyret Niyaz

For immediate release

July 24, 2010


Contact: World Uyghur Congress (www.uyghurcongress.org)
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 (Munich, Germany), +1 (202) 535 0048 (Washington, DC, USA)



The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemns in strongest possible terms the 15-year sentence handed down to prominent Uyghur journalist Gheyret Niyaz by a court in East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China) on July 23, 2010. After a one-day trial, the court convicted and sentenced Mr. Niyaz to 15 years in prison on charges of “endangering state security” for giving interviews to media about the aspects of Uyghurs’ situation that he perceived to be the root causes of the July 2009 ethnic unrest in Urumchi (the regional capital) and for peacefully exercising his freedom of speech in other ways with regard to problems faced by the Uyghur people. According to reports, prosecutors relied on interviews Mr. Niyaz gave to Hong Kong media after the unrest and essays he had written and posted online prior to the July 2009 events that discussed unemployment, discrimination, and other problems faced by Uyghurs in East Turkestan. [1]

Mr. Niyaz was detained in October 2009 [2] in the midst of the detention of many other Uyghur journalists, bloggers, and webmasters in the aftermath of the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest [3], as well as in the midst of a state-imposed information blackout that deprived residents of internet and e-mail access and text messaging and international phone calling capabilities [4].

Mr. Niyaz was sentenced after a one-day trial that only one member of his family — his wife –was permitted to attend. [5] He was denied legal representation of his choosing [6] and due process, and his trial was conducted against a background of intense politicization [7]. The charge on which he was prosecuted and convicted – “endangering state security” – is regularly used by the Chinese authorities to criminalize Uyghurs’ peaceful exercise of their human rights. The use of this vague and arbitrary provision in China’s Criminal Code to prosecute and imprison Uyghur dissidents has drastically increased in recent years. [8]

WUC proclaims that the sentencing of Mr. Niyaz for peacefully exercising his human rights is the latest attempt by the Chinese authorities to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of the press in East Turkestan, instill fear in the Uyghur people to deter them from sharing information about human rights violations that they have experienced and witnessed, and cover up the truth of what occurred during and in the aftermath of the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in Urumchi. WUC calls on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Niyaz, as he has committed no discernible crime under either international or domestic law.

“Gheyret Niyaz has been condemned to spend the next 15 years of his life behind bars for simply expressing his opinions,” said Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress and multiple-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. “The prosecution and conviction of Mr. Niyaz on charges of ‘endangering state security’ is the most recent example of the Chinese authorities’ misuse of this vague and arbitrary provision in China’s Criminal Code to criminalize Uyghurs’ peaceful expression. ‘Endangering state security’ has basically become a ‘catch-all’ for virtually any speech that reflects negatively on the Chinese authorities.”
 
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3205 Nawbrook Road, Mississauga, Ontario L4X 2V6
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