Uyghur sisters jailed for ‘illegal’ religious activities in Xinjiang women’s prison

Melikizat and Patigul Memet are among five female family members sentenced in 2019.
By Shohret Hoshur
2022.01.24
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Imprisoned Uyghur sisters Melikizat Memet (L) and Patigul Mehmet (R) in undated photos.
Photos courtesy of an RFA listener

Two Muslim Uyghur sisters serving lengthy prison sentences for participating in religious gatherings in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region are being held in a women’s prison in the town of Sanji (in Chinese, Changji), detention center officials said.

The siblings, Melikizat and Patigul Memet, are from a family of five women in Korla (in Chinese, Kuerle), all imprisoned for religious activities in which they took part in 2013, according to a verdict issued in April 2019 and recently seen by RFA. The Korla Municipal Court gave Melikizat and Patigul jail sentences of 20 and seven years, respectively.

The women’s mother, 78-year-old Helchem Pazil, sister Zahire Memet, and sister-in-law Bostan Ibrahim, were convicted of “disturbing public order and inciting ethnic hatred” for “hearing and providing a venue for illegal religious preaching,” RFA reported earlier, citing the document. At the time, it was not clear from the verdict where the women were serving their sentences.

They all were retroactively sentenced after China criminalized such activities in 2018 when it issued de-extremification regulations targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, purportedly, to prevent extremist violations and ensure social stability.

After making additional inquiries about the women, Sanji Women’s Prison staffers told RFA that Melikizat and Patigul were serving their sentences there.

Melikizat, a 37-year-old housewife, was convicted of “incitement to ethnic discrimination,” “collectively bringing social disorder,” and “taking others under her wing,” by providing a venue for religious preaching and taking part in it, according to the verdict.

Patigul, a 52-year-old who worked at a veterinary hospital in Korla’s Tekichi village, was convicted of “collectively bringing social disorder” by attending the religion services. She received a lighter punishment for giving an “early and full confession” and for showing “grave remorse.”

During follow-up calls to local official to try to find out where the women were being held, RFA contacted the police station in Tekichi village, though officers would not provide information about Patigul.

Likewise, the municipal prosecutor’s office in Korla declined RFA’s request to speak with Pezilet Memtimin, the prosecutor in the case.

But during a subsequent call to the office, a staffer said that at least a handful of female Uyghur prisoners from Korla were serving sentences in Sanji Women’s Prison.

When RFA contact the prison, an official asked for the national identification numbers of the five women, then confirmed that Melikizat and Patigul Memet were serving their sentences there.

Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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