Lawyers Rejected for Ailing Monk

Tibetan monk's case was handled instead by lawyers chosen by Chinese authorities.

An undated photo of Jigme Gyatso.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Authorities in China’s northwestern Gansu province have refused to allow lawyers chosen by a jailed Tibetan monk’s family to represent him and have completed his trial using government-appointed lawyers, a family source said.

The sentence imposed on the ailing Jigme Gyatso, who was arrested nearly a year ago and charged with “splittist” activities, has not been announced but his friends have filed a petition with the United Nations seeking its immediate intervention in the case. 

Gyatso, who is from the Labrang monastery in Gansu’s Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, has also been refused medical attention while in detention, the source said.

On July 17, two Beijing-based rights lawyers—Wang Yajun from the Beijing Gehang law firm and Zhang Kai from the Yijia law firm—traveled to Hezuo city in Gansu to investigate the jailed monk’s case at the request of family members, the source said.

“But they were told by the authorities that Lama Jigme had already been tried by the Gannan People’s Court. They were also told that the court had appointed two local lawyers to represent him, and that no lawyers from Beijing would be needed.”

Denied permission to defend their client, the two lawyers returned to Bejing, the source said, adding that Jigme Gyatso’s sentence has not yet been announced.

Attempts to reach the two lawyers by phone on Thursday were unsuccessful, and a call to the Gannan People’s Court was broken by a bad connection.

Outside lawyers 'not allowed'

Separately, a family friend living outside China confirmed that the lawyers hired by Jigme Gyatso’s family had been turned away.

“Lama Jigme said that authorities told him he could have a lawyer, but that they should come from local law firms, and that lawyers from outside the province would not be allowed,” he said.

“He has said that he is not guilty of any crime, that everything he has done has been for the well-being of the Tibetan people, and that this is not against Chinese law.”

Friends and relatives outside China have filed a petition with the United Nations, asking them to intervene in the case, he added.

Gyatso was arrested by Chinese police on Aug. 20, 2011, and formally charged with “splittist activities”—a charge often brought against Tibetans who assert their national identity or who protest China’s rule in Tibetan areas

Following Gyatso’s arrest, more than 50 security personnel and armed police searched his room in the monastery, a source inside Tibet said.

“All of his belongings, including a computer, manuscripts, CDs, and photos of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama, were confiscated,” the source said.

Previously detained

Chinese authorities first detained Jigme Gyatso, also called Jigme Goril, in 2006 following his return to Labrang after he attended a religious ceremony conducted in India by the Dalai Lama.

He was released without charge after being held and questioned for a month.

In 2008, he was picked up during regionwide protests against Chinese rule and was held for a year. He was severely beaten in detention, but again was not formally charged.

In 2010, he was held for six months in a hotel for political “re-education” before he was once again released.

Jigme Gyatso’s Labrang monastery was the scene of major demonstrations against Beijing’s rule during regionwide Tibetan protests in March 2008.

Monks later disrupted a government-controlled tour of the monastery by foreign journalists in April 2008.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Tibetan service.  Written in English by Richard Finney.


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