Imam now in China's hands

Jun. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM

A Burlington man, who faces a death sentence in China for his human rights work, now finds himself back in that country after being extradicted from Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has informed Canada they have handed Huseyincan Celil, 37, over to China. His family was told of the development yesterday morning by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The move has frightened his family and friends. The father of six was sentenced to death in absentia for founding a political party to work on behalf of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province. Celil fled the province in the mid-1990s and came to Canada from Turkey in 2001 as a refugee. He is now a Canadian citizen. "It's an unfortunate turn of events," said lawyer Chris MacLeod, who is liaisoning between Celil's wife, Kamila, and Ottawa. "It's reprehensible that he goes from Uzbekistan to China when we put everyone on notice that we wanted him back." MacLeod said Kamila is not doing well after receiving the news from Ottawa. "She's very emotional about it, obviously," said MacLeod. "China's record with Uyghurs is pretty terrible and they were pretty hard on Huseyincan last time before he escaped." Celil, an imam, was arrested and imprisoned in Uzbekistan in March. He, his wife and three children had been visiting his in-laws. Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Kim Girtel said yesterday Canada is trying to confirm with China that Celil is in its hands. Once that has been determined, Canada will demand a consul official be allowed to visit him in prison.Hamilton Spectator

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