Washington, UAA, 23 Feb 2011 – The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is extremely concerned about reports that four men with Uyghur names have been sentenced to death in East Turkestan. Courts in Aksu, Hotan and Kumul (Chinese: Hami) sentenced Turhun Turdi, Abdulla Tunyaz, Ahunniyaz Nur, and Abdukerim Abdurahman to death for their alleged roles in three separate incidents that took place between August and November 2010. According to official media reports, the death sentences for the four men have been approved by China’s highest court, signifying that they could be carried out at any time. In addition, Yasin Kadeer and Ahmet Kurban were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in connection with the incidents.
“By sentencing these four Uyghurs to death, China is attempting to intimidate the Uyghur people, fearing that they will take to the streets to demand human rights, democracy and freedoms from the authoritarian Chinese government,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer.
UAA calls upon the international community to condemn the death sentences, in light of the disproportionate use of the death penalty against Uyghurs in East Turkestan, the highly charged political environment in the region, and the Chinese government’s documented abuse of terrorism as a pretext to persecute Uyghurs, since the men were accused of having carried out “terrorist violence” in the murders of nine people.
In addition, a lack of transparency in the wake of the attack that took place in Aksu, as well as the previous absence of reporting regarding the attacks said to have taken place in Hotan and Kumul, raise serious questions about the criminal and judicial procedures applied in these cases.
While official Chinese media on February 23 highlighted the alleged terrorist nature of the fall 2010 attacks, in reports immediately following the attack in Aksu in August, Chinese officials did not describe the incident as being terrorist in nature. A lack of details and corroborating evidence necessitates skepticism regarding such official claims, and warrant independent investigation.
As part of a long-term strategy to justify disproportionate responses to Uyghur unrest, even peaceful, Chinese officials have worked to manufacture a connection between the Uyghur people and global terror networks. Since 9/11, Chinese authorities have used the “war on terror” as a pretext to intensify their repression of Uyghurs, the overwhelming majority of whom have no connection to any terror attacks.
UAA is unequivocally opposed to any form of violence, condemns any violent actions and asserts that terrorist actions will only serve to increase the suppression of the Uyghur people and exacerbate tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. UAA works peacefully for the realization of democracy, freedom and human rights for Uyghurs.
Violent attacks have occurred frequently throughout China in recent years, including a blast resulting in multiple fatalities at a tax office in Hunan Province in July 2010, fatal attacks on school children in five different provinces in little over a month in the first half of 2010, a violent clash between miners and villagers in Shaanxi Province in July 2010, and a deadly attack on the family of a village chief in July 2010.
Background on August 19 attack in Aksu
Turhun Turdi and Abdulla Tunyaz were sentenced in connection with a deadly attack that reportedly took place on August 19 in the city of Aksu, which is located in the western part of East Turkestan near the border with Kyrgyzstan. The attack took place in the morning on the outskirts of the city, and resulted in multiple casualties. There is a lack of clarity surrounding many details of the attack. The International Federation of Journalists reported on August 20 that China’s Central Propaganda Department had banned all reporting on the incident. UAA obtained unconfirmed information from local sources that several hours after the attack occurred, martial law was implemented in Aksu and surrounding areas, including the city of Kuche, located to the east of Aksu.
According to multiple media reports, an attacker or attackers drove a three-wheeled vehicle into a crowd of people in the Aksu, detonating explosives and killing and wounding multiple law enforcement personnel. Regional government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin told reporters at a press conference on August 19 that a male suspect of the Uyghur ethnicity, who had himself been injured in the attack, had been detained by authorities, but his age and identity had yet to be determined. Hou stated that Chinese police were investigating the motive behind the attack. On August 20, Chinese state media reported that a woman had also been involved in the attack, and that she had been killed in the blast.
Varying casualty figures were given by Chinese government officials and state media in August. According to a statement posted on the Aksu city government website in the evening of August 19, seven people either died at the scene of the attack or as a result of injuries sustained during the attack. The city government reported that 14 people were injured in the blast. According to media reports, at least some of those killed and injured in the attack were Uyghur. A number of police vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the blast.
According to local residents, the auxiliary police force targeted by the attack is believed to have been responsible for monitoring the Uyghur population in the region. Local sources reported that government officials from Beijing traveled to Aksu on the same day the attack occurred. Local sources also reported that those injured in the attack were treated at the Aksu No. 1 People’s Hospital, with a heavy security presence stationed around the man alleged to have perpetrated the attack.
According to unconfirmed reports from local sources and media reports, martial law was imposed in Aksu and surrounding areas in the wake of the attack, although the regional government denied these reports. Armed police, special police and armored vehicles were reportedly deployed to enforce martial law. Blanket searches and widespread detentions of Uyghurs were reportedly carried out in these areas, which include Awat County, which falls under the administration of the Aksu Prefecture, and the city of Kuche.
Accounts from Aksu residents obtained by UAA, together with residents interviewed by Radio Free Asia, assert that the actions of police patrolmen in the city had recently created resentment among the local population, due to the extremely intrusive surveillance measures they employed. Local residents report that these police units often harassed Uyghur men with beards and Uyghur women wearing scarves. Local residents reported experiencing intense restrictions on fasting and other religious practices related to the month of Ramadan, which began on August 11. Official media reports from cities throughout East Turkestan, including Artush, Keriya County in Hotan Prefecture, Poskam County in Kashgar Prefecture, and Yarkant County in Kashgar Prefecture indicate that controls on fasting and praying were increased during Ramadan, in the name of “protecting stability”, strengthening ethnic unity and guarding against “illegal religious activities”. Official guidelines in particular proscribe the participation of government workers, teachers and students from any type of religious activity during Ramadan.
Executions carried out in connection with 2008 attack in Kashgar
In August 2008, Chinese state media reported that two Uyghurs, one taxi driver and one vegetable seller, attacked and killed sixteen policemen on August 4, 2008, using a truck, homemade grenades and machetes in the city of Kashgar. Abdurahman Azat and Kurbanjan Hemit, who were convicted of having carried out the attack, were sentenced to death in December 2008 for “intentional homicide and illegally producing guns, ammunition and explosives”.
Following the attack, the party secretary of Kashgar, Shi Dagang, said that Azat and Hemit were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). However, no evidence has been presented on the men’s affiliation with ETIM since Shi Dagang’s statement. Prominent scholars on Uyghurs and terrorism have cast doubt on the existence of ETIM as an organized terror group, and have asserted that the group, if it did indeed exist, likely disappeared years ago. In addition, a September 28, 2008 New York Times report on the attack cast doubt on the official Chinese version of events in a number of key areas, detailing the eyewitness accounts of three western tourists, one of whom had taken photographs of the attack.
Azat and Hemit were executed on April 9, 2009 at an unknown location after the announcement of their impending execution was read out in front of 4,000 officials and Kashgar residents in a local stadium. According to local sources, Hemit appeared to have been severely beaten while in custody. The two men were reportedly also denied access to legal counsel and were not allowed to see their families following their initial detention. The executions were carried out at the same time an intense security clampdown, during which at least 90 Uyghurs were arrested, as the Chinese government mobilized armed security forces throughout the area and authorities conducted house-to-house searches.Number of View: 1305