Date
24 September 2017
Ilham Tohti appears in court in Urumqi. Amnesty International says his conviction and life sentence are an affront to justice. Photo: Reuters
Ilham Tohti appears in court in Urumqi. Amnesty International says his conviction and life sentence are an affront to justice. Photo: Reuters

Uighur academic signs 15-page appeal against life sentence

Lawyers for a prominent Uighur scholar jailed for life in China for separatism have filed documents appealing against the sentence. 

Ilham Tohti, a Beijing academic who has been speaking out for the Uighur minority in restive Xinjiang province, signed the 15-page appeal, BBC reported, citing defense lawyer Li Fangping.

Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday by the Intermediate People’s Court in Urumqi for promoting independence for Xinjiang on his website and supporting terrorism.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the verdict and heavy sentence were an affront to justice.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern at the ruling, calling it Beijing’s “retribution” for Tohti’s human rights advocacy for Uighur citizens.

He accused China of silencing “an important moderate Uighur voice”, BBC reported Wednesday. Both the US and the European Union have repeatedly called for Tohti’s release.

China’s foreign ministry warned against foreign interference in China’s judicial sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the prosecution released a video purporting to show Tohti inciting his class over the ethnic conflict in Xinjiang, according state news agency Xinhua.

In the clip, which was shown at the hearing, Tohti asked his students: “Does Xinjiang belong to the Han people? No, it belongs to the Uighur people and the Central Asia ethnic groups,” the report said.

Seven of Tohti’s students went on to join separatist activities, a prosecutor was quoted as saying.

 

Li and another lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said the Xinhua report distorted and concealed many of the facts of the case, according to BBC.

“It’s a serious violation of law to expose evidence of the case during the appeal period… the judgment has not come into force”, Li said.

 

“The judge interrupted Tohti several times and no witnesses appeared in court to give testimony.”

Liu said Xinhua omitted that part of the story.

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