Kazakhstan deports Uighur to China, rights groups cry
07 Jun 2011
People attend a rally to protest against the sale of
Kazakh national resources to China in Almaty, May 28,
2011. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
ALMATY, June 7 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan has extradited an
ethnic Uighur schoolteacher
who had been granted UN refugee status to face charges
of terrorism in China, a diplomat said on Tuesday,
drawing condemnation from rights groups who said the
case was politically motivated.
Activists have criticised Kazakhstan's decision to
deport Ershidin Israil, saying he could suffer harsh
treatment and even torture in China. Kazakhstan said
China had agreed that the death penalty would not be
applied. "Israil has been extradited to the People's
Republic of China," Ilyas Omarov, press secretary for
the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, told Reuters. He said the
handover had been made at the request of Interpol and
had happened on May 30.
"The Chinese side gave written guarantees that Israil
would not be executed," the diplomat said.
The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur people are native to
China's far western region of Xinjiang, which is
strategically located on the borders of Central Asia.
Many of Xinjiang's 8 million Uighurs resent the growing
presence and economic grip of the majority Han Chinese.
Israil, who holds a Chinese passport, was arrested in
Kazakhstan's financial capital Almaty on June 24 last
year on terrorism charges, following a request from
Interpol, Omarov said. On June 8, 2010, Israil had
officially applied for refugee status in Kazakhstan. At
the time, he held a refugee mandate issued by the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Taking
into account Israil's confessions on his role in a
terrorist act in China's Xinjiang and ... his possible
complicity in preparing a terrorist act in July 1997,
the (migration) commission turned down (on Sept. 9,
2010) his request to obtain refugee status in
Kazakhstan," Omarov said. "Granting Israil shelter in
Kazakhstan, as well as in any third country, would pose
a threat to the security of Kazakhstan and other
The exiled World Uyghur Congress said Israil had fled
Xinjiang in 2009 after providing information to Radio
Free Asia about the death of another Uighur man.
That year, Uighurs rioted against Han Chinese residents
in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi, killing at least
197 people, mostly Han.
"Israil's deportation appears to be based on accusations
by the Chinese authorities of his involvement in
'terrorism,'" Human Rights in China said in a statement.
"Such accusations, however, were levied against Israil
after he allegedly released details of the Sept 18, 2009
beating death of ethnic Uyghur Shohret Tursun, who had
been detained by Chinese authorities following the
Urumqi riots," it added.
China's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request
Omarov said that after studying Israel's case, the UNHCR
annulled on May 3 its refugee mandate issued to Israel.
Neighbouring countries have deported Uighurs to China
In late 2009, Cambodia returned 20 Uighurs to China who
they said had illegally entered the country, despite
protests from the United Nations and the United States.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Ben Blanchard
and Sanjeev Miglani)