Uyghur Activist Executed in China

2007-02-08
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 8—Chinese authorities in the far-west city of Urumqi today executed an ethnic Uyghur man for allegedly attempting to “split the [Chinese] motherland.”

“The execution was carried out at 9 a.m.,” Ismail Semed’s widow, Buhejer, told RFA’s Uyghur service. “They gave his body to us at the cemetery. Some of his relatives and friends joined us. When the body was transferred to us at the cemetery I saw only one bullet hole in his heart.”

Semed, a Uyghur political activist deported to China from Pakistan in 2003, was sentenced to death Oct. 31, 2005, by the Urumqi City Intermediate People’s Court for “attempting to split the motherland” and “possessing firearms and explosives,” according to Uyghur sources.

“The authorities informed us about the decision to execute him Monday afternoon,” she said. “They allowed us to meet with him for just 10 minutes on Monday. He said, ‘What can I do, it's my fate… Please take care of our children, and let them get a good education.”

The authorities informed us about the decision to execute him Monday afternoon. They allowed us to meet with him for just 10 minutes on Monday. He said, ‘What can I do, it's my fate… Please take care of our children, and let them get a good education.'

“[It was] only for 10 minutes, we didn’t have too much time to talk…There were several of us. Previously, he had said his leg hurt, and his stomach hurt, and other parts of his body hurt, and that he needed medicine,” she said.

Confession said to be coerced

At trial, she said, Semed told the court his confession was coerced. "They forced me," she quoted him as saying. The Semeds have a young son and daughter, whose ages were not immediately available.

No comment was immediately available from Chinese officials.

Two other Uyghurs—a majority Muslim people with ethnic ties to the Turkic populations of Central Asia—had testified against him: Osman Hamit and Memet Rahmat. Both have since been executed, according to sources in the region.

Sources close to the case said the charge of “attempting to split the motherland” was based on the allegation that Semed was a founding member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing has outlawed as a terrorist group.

Semed served two prison sentences previously for participating in the violent Baren uprising of 1990. He fled to Pakistan after the crackdown in Ghulja in 1997.

Group branded terrorists

Uyghurs constitute a distinct, Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority in northwestern China and Central Asia. They declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the late 1930s and 40s but have remained under Beijing’s control since 1949.

Beijing has launched a massive development initiative in the poorer western regions of the country in recent years, while at the same time actively encouraging the migration of Han Chinese to the troubled region.

China's Ministry of Public Security in 2003 named four groups campaigning for self-rule in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which Uyghur activists refer to as East Turkestan, as terrorists.

“They have planned, organized, and carried out a series of violent terrorist activities such as bombings, assassinations, arsons, poisonings, and attacks,” a senior Chinese official said, calling on the international community to ban the groups, stop them from getting support or asylum, freeze their accounts, and prosecute wanted individuals and extradite them to China.

One of the organizations was the East Turkestan Information Center (ETIC), which runs a prominent news Web site on Uyghur affairs. The other three were named as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), and World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC).

Original reporting by Omer Kanat for RFA's Uyghur service. Service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Original reporting in Uyghur