Family, friends deny charge
By Daniel NolanThe Hamilton Spectator(May 9, 2006)
The Uzbekistan government is accusing a Burlington father of six it is holding in jail of being a terrorist linked to two attacks in Central Asia six years ago.
But his lawyer and a friend say the story has been concocted by the government to back up their detention of Huseyincan Celil, 37, and to try and ease the heat it is facing for his imprisonment.
Celil's detention since March has drawn the attention of human rights groups across the globe, including Amnesty International. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary, MP Jason Kenney, has also expressed concern about his fate and Ottawa has dispatched a consular officer from Moscow to keep tabs on the situation.
"We knew they had to come up with something to detain him," said Chris MacLeod, a Hamilton lawyer who is liaisoning between Celil's wife Kamila, and the Canadian government, over his imprisonment.
"It's absolutely not surprising. Whatever the currency of the day is ... if this was the early 1990s, it was the war on drugs. Now, you've got a war on terror. I fully expected them to make some sort of allegation."
Uzbek authorities alleged on the weekend they have proof Celil, a member of the minority Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang province, is a Uyghur terrorist wanted by both China and the neighbouring nation of Kyrgyzstan. He came to Canada in 2001 and is now a Canadian citizen.
They say he is really Guler Dilaver, an Uyghur who had Turkish citizenship, and is wanted by Kyrgyzstan for the March 20, 2000, slaying of the head of the Uyghur Society in Kyrgyzstan. China wants him for a May 2000 attack on a state delegation in Xinjiang province.
MacLeod and Celil's friend Burhan Celik, of Ottawa, say the allegations are false because Celil was in Turkey at the time of the attacks, under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are compiling documents, including photos, to show he was in Turkey and plan to present them at a press conference in Ottawa today.
Celil fled Kyrgyzstan for Turkey in 1999. He sought shelter there in the mid-1990s from China, where he advocated for the rights of the Uyghur minority. There are fears he could face execution if extradited to China because of his political work within the Uyghur community.
Celil went to Uzbekistan with his wife and three sons. They visited her family and to see if he could get his other three children out of China, where he had to leave them.
MacLeod and Celik say Celil had a passport in the name of Guler Dilaver. Celik said his friend bought it for $1,000 US after he fled China, as protection if he was ever arrested, because there remains strong respect for a Turkish passport in Central Asia. Celil was arrested by Kyrgyzstan authorities in 1998, and released after admitting his real identity. But Celik said his friend never saw the fake passport again.
"They're just trying to make up a scenario," said Celik about the Uzbekistan's terrorist allegations. "I suggest they go with Stephen Spielberg. He's quite good with this type of movie. This is all made up. He has done nothing wrong."
MacLeod said, as far as anyone can determine, Celil remains in prison in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. He is suffering stomach pains, which MacLeod believes is linked to ulcers.
Family, friends deny charge