TIBETAN MONK PROTESTS INNOCENCE IN SMUGGLED AUDIOTAPE

2003-01-21
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Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche Could Get New Trial in Higher Court

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21--In a tape-recorded message smuggled out of his Chinese jail, an influential Tibetan monk sentenced to death in December insists he had nothing to do with a series of bomb blasts in western China, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

"Whatever [the authorities] do and say, I am completely innocent," Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, 52, says in the message, tape-recorded Jan. 18 at his jail cell in Dartsedo (Kangding, Sichuan) and smuggled out to RFA�s Tibetan service. "I have always urged people to be kind-hearted and caring toward others. Everybody knows what I say and practice."

On Dec. 6, a court in China�s western Sichuan Province handed down death sentences to Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche and his assistant, Lobsang Dhondup, 28, for a series of bombings blamed on supporters of Tibetan independence. Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche�s sentence was suspended for two years, however. Death sentences in China are usually carried out, while suspended death sentences often are commuted to long prison terms.

The sentences prompted an international outcry, and human rights organizations called for an open re-trial of the case. A re-trial at the same Kandze Intermediate Court scheduled for Jan. 10 was abruptly canceled. Sichuan Province borders the Tibetan Autonomous Region and includes parts of traditionally Tibetan territory. Kandze forms part of the Kham Tibetan region, which falls under the administration of Sichuan Province.

Separately, two sources who asked not to be named indicated that Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche had called off a hunger strike aimed at protesting his treatment in prison after two Chinese officials visited him Jan. 7-8 and assured him he would get a new trial in the higher Sichuan Provincial Court. Chinese officials weren�t immediately available to confirm the new trial or say when it would begin. Whether Lobsang Dhondup might also get a new trial was unclear.

Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, who studied in India with Tibet�s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said he heard from friends "about some explosions in the Sichuan area. Sometimes it was described as bomb explosions."

"Around that time, one of my friends called me and asked if Lobsang Dhondup was my relative. Then I became suspicious that something serious was going on," he said on the tape. "When I heard about the explosions and Lobsang Dhondup, I suspected that I might be wrongly accused and arrested--that I might become a scapegoat."

"I was wrongly accused because I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetans. The Chinese did not like what I did and what I said. That is the only reason why I was arrested."

He also vowed to continue his efforts on behalf of Tibetans living under Chinese rule and called for an independent inquiry into his case. "I will continue working for the Tibetan people and cause, even at the cost of my precious life," Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche said. "I want peace in the whole world. All sentient beings have been parents at some point in their cyclic existence� If I am to stay in jail and die, I want my death to be useful for all sentient beings."

"I have always said we should not even raise our hand at others. It is sinful... I have neither distributed letters or pamphlets nor planted bombs secretly. I have never even thought of such things, and I have no intention to hurt others," Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche said. "Those who are unbiased should investigate my case thoroughly."

Sources close to the men said both were denied legal assistance during their first trial. One of several judges who decided the case told RFA at the time that Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche had confessed to five of the six explosions with which he was charged. He failed to indicate whether Lobsang Dhondup had also confessed.

The judge, who identified himself only as Director Zhao, cited numerous bomb blasts between 1998 and 2002: two at the home of Lithang Kyabgon Rinpoche, the chief abbot of Lithang Monastery; three in Dartsedo; one in front of a major government building; and one outside a police station.

The Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile has demanded that both sentences be reversed. It said the two men had been denied fair trials and the sentences should be thrown out.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####

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