Date
21 September 2017
Ilham Tohti insists he has never associated with any terrorist or foreign-based groups. Photo: AFP
Ilham Tohti insists he has never associated with any terrorist or foreign-based groups. Photo: AFP

Uyghur scholar ‘shackled, refused warm clothes’ ahead of trial

An ethnic Uyghur academic in China is being kept in shackles and has been refused warm clothing ahead of his trial in Xinjiang, Reuters reported, citing his lawyer.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor who championed the rights of Muslim Uyghur people in the northwestern autonomous region, is due to go on trial on separatism charges in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, on Wednesday.

Tohti was detained in January and accused of promoting Xinjiang’s independence from China. His arrest is seen as part of a broader crackdown on Islamist militants and separatists blamed for a series of violent attacks in the region and elsewhere in the country.

“He said he is still in leg irons. Urumqi is already cold, but he is still wearing shorts sleeves and he has fallen ill. He has not been given the clothes his family sent to him,” Tohti’s lawyer Li Fangping told the news agency by phone.

Li, who met with his client on Monday, said prolonged exposure to such conditions is a violation of Chinese law.

Li said prosecutors had denied a request to have the trial moved from Urumqi to Beijing, where Tohti lived, worked and operated a Uyghur-language website. Several of Tohti’s students, who had worked on the website, have also been detained.

“They won’t even give him access to photos sent by his family. After a month they say they are still evaluating the pictures. They are worried that there are secret codes in the pictures,” Li was quoted as saying.

Tohti, who taught at Beijing’s Minzu University, which specializes in ethnic minority studies, has insisted that he never associated with members of any terrorist or foreign-based group.

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CG

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