The mother of a young Uyghur man believed to have been forcibly taken away after 2009 riots in Urumqi will go to court next month to face charges of leaking China state secrets for discussing her son’s disappearance in an interview with Radio Free Asia, a source close to the family said.
Widow Patigul Ghulam has been one of the most vocal Uyghurs who have been pressing authorities on the whereabouts of family members missing during the violence in Urumqi on July 5, 2009 between minority Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese that left 200 people dead.
Her son, Imammemet Eli, who would now be 32, was taken by police on July 14, 2009 and she last heard about him nine months later, when fellow inmates said he was found severely tortured and taken to a hospital.
Patigul Ghulam has been pressing local police in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, for information on her son ever since, but has not received any satisfactory answers.
The son is among several thousand people, according to Uyghur exile groups, who were forcibly disappeared in the aftermath of the violence, the most deadly episode of ethnic unrest in China’s recent history.
Closed trial on April 7
Patigul Ghulam, who had been under house arrest and under heavy surveillance since September 2012, was detained in May 2014, a month after she gave an interview to RFA’s Uyghur Service. At the time, she said that she met with Wang Mengshen, the Urumqi city police chief, and said that Wang told her the police were still looking for her son.
Patigul Ghulam now faces a closed court session on April 7, a person close to her family told RFA. The source requested that her identity not be revealed for fear of retaliation from the government.
“The court convenes on the 7th of April. None of her kids were given permission to attend. Right now they are waiting for the government’s reply to their request to attend to the court session,” the source told RFA.
After their mother was detained, her other three children were put under surveillance and faced interrogation. They recently were granted the right to visit their mother once a month, on the precondition that they not speak to any foreign media, the source added.
“Only one of them is working, in an invitation card publication shop. Their economic situation is not that good, either,” said the source.
A police officer at the Bahuliang police station in the Thenritagh (in Chinese, Tianshan) district of Urumqi declined to comment on the case when contacted by RFA.
“I do not have permission to speak on this case,” he said.
A neighborhood committee worker in Bahuliang, location of the family home, also declined comment.
“I do not know anything about her situation. There is special personal that is in charge of her case. You should ask him,” she said.
Reported by Gulchehra Ghoja for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Paul Eckert.