Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have released the son of exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer from prison after serving a nine-year prison sentence for “instigating and engaging in secessionist activities” related to articles he published online.
Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said her family was overjoyed by Ablikim Abdureyim’s May 31 release from No. 4 Prison in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi and expressed gratitude to the international community for monitoring his well-being during his incarceration.
“My son Ablikim Abdureyim has been released after fully serving his nine-year sentence,” Kadeer told RFA’s Uyghur Service, comparing the days since he was freed to “a festival” for her family.
“My son came out alive, and for that I am happy … I believe this is due to the concern shown by the international community and rights organizations, as well as pressure from western governments on Beijing,” she said.
“I wish freedom for all Uyghurs in jail and believe they will one day be released.”
Abdureyim’s release was also welcomed by T. Kumar, advocacy director of London-based rights group Amnesty International, which has closely followed his case since his arrest on June 1, 2006 along with two of his siblings.
“From Amnesty International's perspective, he should not have been arrested in the first place. He was arrested and kept as a hostage to keep Rebiya Kadeer silent,” he said.
“We hope Chinese authorities will not enforce any restrictions on Ablikim and allow him freedom of movement.”
Trial and imprisonment
While Chinese state media has reported that Abdureyim was provided with legal representation, advance notice was given of his January 2007 trial in Urumqi, and that he had confessed to the charges against him, his family has consistently denied those claims, adding that any “confession” was likely obtained through torture.
According to a statement issued by the WUC, evidence of his “secessionist activities” was never provided by the state, despite allegations that he had disseminated pro-secession articles, planned to incite anti-government protest, and wrote an essay misrepresenting human rights conditions in the region.
In 2010, Amnesty International reported that Abdureyim was being tortured in prison and had been placed in solitary confinement after having witnessed an incident that the prison authorities “wanted to keep quiet,” because he had refused to sign a document denying what he had seen.
The report cited his family as saying they had visited him in jail in December that year and that he appeared weak and was suffering from problems with his vision.
Authorities in China have targeted members of Kadeer's family since she was first imprisoned in 1999 for “endangering state security,” and further intensified their harassment following her release on medical parole in March 2005 and immigration to the U.S.
She claims to have been warned that if she engaged with members of the Uyghur community or spoke publicly about “sensitive issues,” her “businesses and children would be finished.”
On Nov. 27, 2006—the day after Kadeer was elected president of the WUC—a court sentenced two of her sons, Alim and Kahar Abdureyim, to fines amounting to millions of U.S. dollars, and Alim to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of tax evasion.
Scrutiny of other family members—including Kadeer’s children and grandchildren and their spouses—increased following July 2009 ethnic violence that erupted between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi, which Beijing accused her of orchestrating.
In May 2012, officials in Xinjiang compelled Alim Abdureyim to sign documents in prison handing over two family-owned buildings in Urumqi to the government, the WUC said.
Reported by Gulchehra Ghoja for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.