Uyghur journalist said to get life sentence

A Uyghur journalist working for an official Chinese radio service has been sentenced to life in prison following a secret trial conducted earlier this year. Memetjan Abdulla, an editor for the Uyghur service of the People´s Republic of China National Radio, was sentenced in April in a closed trial in Urumqi, capital of China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

According to a letter sent by his friend to Radio Free Asia (RFA), authorities had charged Abdulla with helping to instigate deadly ethnic rioting in Urumqi in July 2009 following Uyghur protests at the beating deaths of Uyghur factory workers in the eastern Chinese city of Shaoguan.

Translated many sensitive articles
Abdulla had translated a call issued by the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress for Uyghurs in exile to protest, in their hosting countries, the Shaoguan deaths.

The call had appeared on a Chinese website, and Abdulla had then translated the call into Uyghur and reposted it on the Uyghur website Salkin.

The July 5 violence, which according to eyewitnesses followed initially peaceful Uyghur protests, left some 200 ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese dead, according to Chinese government count.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a man who was present at Abdulla’s trial said that official anger at Abdulla had resulted in the severity of his sentence, according to the letter received by RFA.

“Memetjan answered the questions of foreign journalists in Beijing about Uyghur reactions to the June 26 Shaoguan incident,” the man said. “Plus, he translated many sensitive articles that were published on the Salkin website.”

Memetjan Abdulla was quietly sentenced by a court in April in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang (above, map of the region), said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress. If confirmed, the sentence would be among the harshest handed out in the aftermath of the rioting, especially for someone not directly involved in the violence.

Sentenced at the same time as Abdulla was Gulmire Imin, also accused of instigating the riots, according to the letter sent to RFA.

the People´s Republic of China National Radio personnel, reached for comment, avoided reporters’ questions and referred enquiries to other employees.

Not only case
Gheyret Niyaz (right) a 51-year-old journalist and webmaster was accused of criticizing the Chinese authorities in 2009 and was given 15 years in jail on 23 July 2010  for “endangering state security.”

A former deputy director of the official Xinjiang Legal Daily, Gheyret was employed at the official Xinjiang Economic Daily as a journalist at the time of his detention. Niyaz also served as webmaster and administrator of the Uyghur Online website.

In August, Urumqi authorities also sentenced three ethnic minority Uyghur webmasters to life in jail for alleged separatist offenses. Dilshat Perhat (above), webmaster and owner of Diyarim; Nureli, webmaster of Salkin; and Nijat Azat, webmaster of Shabnam were sentenced to five, three and 10 years in jail respectively, also for “endangering state security.”

The verdicts were handed down in a series of closed trials at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court. All three websites publish online in the Uyghur language, spoken by the predominantly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority.

Background
Memetjan Abdulla was born in 1977 and grew up in Karamay City in Xinjiang, his friend said in the letter sent to RFA.

He graduated in 2001 from the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, now the Communication University of the People´s Republic of China, and worked for eight years as a broadcaster and editor at the Uyghur service of the People´s Republic of China National Radio.

In his free time, the letter said, Abdulla worked as a manager for the Uyghur-language Salkin website.

He was arrested two months after the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, according to the letter.

The rioting in Xinjiang in 2009 fanned fears among government officials that the Internet could help spread unrest in the People´s Republic of China. Officials shut down Internet services in Xinjiang immediately after the rioting started, and courts have given particularly harsh sentences to Uighurs involved in running Web sites.

Tensions between the mainly Muslim Uyghurs of Xinjiang and China’s dominant ethnic Han have been growing in recent years. Millions of Han have moved to the region in recent decades.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China’s ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.

Related links:

Fate of Uyghur journalist and website editor ‘unknown’

China convicts three Uyghur web managers on state security charges

China sentences Uyghur journalist and website editor to 15 years in prison

China razes Uyghur homes

China: son of Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer tortured in prison, call for action

China: authorities curtail travel for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang region

Rebiya Kadeer – five years of freedom

– My people are living in an open prison

Uyghurs treated as second-class citizens by China

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