Family losing hope for missing Canadian

Harper has yet to respond, they say
Ex-activist may be in Chinese prison

Jul. 5, 2006. 10:44 AM



After 100 days since Huseyincan Celil was taken into foreign custody, questions still swirl around his disappearance, his whereabouts and the Canadian government's response.

The Chinese-born Muslim refugee is a Canadian citizen and father of six who has been shuttled between captors so secretively that his family isn't even sure he's still alive.

Aside from comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay that his office began trying months ago to secure Celil's release, Ottawa has barely acknowledged the fact the Burlington imam and former political activist is a prisoner whose prospects turned grim when he apparently surfaced in Chinese custody last week. He faces a death sentence there.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not responded to a letter sent last week by Celil's Hamilton-based lawyer, Chris MacLeod, requesting he send a special envoy to secure Celil's release. Harper's help, Celil's family says, is their only hope.

Sandra Buckler, Harper's spokeswoman, said the letter was received. She could not say how long it will take Harper to respond, adding that response time varies depending on how many ministries are involved.

The case against Celil, who became a Canadian citizen last year, is confusing and complex. It involves allegations that he has multiple aliases, and that he used at least one of them to assassinate a political leader and commit terror-related crimes in Kyrgyzstan and China.

Celil's lawyer has deemed the allegations bizarre, and says he has documents to prove his client's innocence. It's unclear whether Ottawa has its own information on Celil's alleged crimes, or whether, over the past 100 days, he's simply slipped further into the cracks.

The saga of Celil's captivity began when the 37-year-old was arrested on March 27 in Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan. He was there with his wife visiting relatives who travelled to see him from nearby China, and was taken into custody when he tried to renew a visitor's visa.

Celil's family said they suspected he was arrested because of Uzbekistan's close ties with China.

Celil was imprisoned in China in the mid-1990s, allegedly for political activities in Xinjiang province. He was connected to the Uyghurs, a minority group of Turkish-speaking Muslims who have been accused by China of leading a violent separatist movement.

After he escaped, Celil was admitted to Canada as a refugee in 2001. While he and his wife were beginning their new life in Hamilton, a Chinese court sentenced Celil to death in absentia.

When he was arrested in Uzbekistan last March, his family began to fear for his life, worrying he would be extradited to China and killed. But for nearly three months, Uzbek officials kept Celil in custody.

They allowed him three consular visits with Canadian representatives. He had no family contact.

But his future was quickly clouded by a statement issued by the Uzbek Embassy in London, suggesting Celil has multiple aliases, including "Guler Dilaver," a Turkish citizen wanted by neighbouring Kyrgyz law enforcement officials for "for membership in terrorism groups, kidnapping, taking hostages and illegal weapon possession."

A pro-government website alleges Dilaver was involved in a May 2000 attack on a state delegation in Xinjiang province. It also alleges he is responsible for the March 2000 killing of Nigmat Baizakov, former head of the Uyghur Society in Kyrgyzstan.

Celil's lawyer argues the charges are a "ruse" because Celil was in a different country at the time.

Seven month's pregnant with the couple's fourth child, Celil's wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, said she was told Uzbek authorities were waiting to see if her husband's fingerprints matched those on file in China and Kyrgyzstan before deporting him.

Last week, Uzbekistan confirmed it had turned Celil over to Chinese officials. Telendibaeva began wondering if her husband is even alive. Last week, she began pleading for help. "Only the Canadian government can help to bring my husband back," she said. "They have to do more. They have to do more."

MacLeod said if he doesn't receive a response from the Prime Minister's Office by the end of the week, he'll make the trip to China himself. He said a high-level intervention is necessary not only to free Celil, but also to ensure the safety of other Canadian immigrants travelling abroad. "They need to know that when they get a Canadian passport, they can actually safely leave this country for other countries."

The Canadian government insists it is doing what it can.

Last Tuesday, a diplomatic note — the strongest instrument governments can use to communicate without damaging relations — was hand-delivered to Chinese officials asking about Celil's whereabouts. So far, there has been no official response.

With files from Michael Mainville, the Star's stringer in Moscow

Kyrgyz Uyghurs Protest At Chinese Embassy

Kyrgyz Uyghurs Protest At Chinese Embassy
Kyrgyzstan/Uygurs – Uyghur minority representaives protest outside Chiene embasy in Bishkek,demanding the release of Huseyin Celil, 5Jul2006
Some of the protesters at July 5 picket in front of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek
BISHKEK, July 5, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Representatives of ethnic Uyghurs living in Kyrgyzstan today demonstrated in front of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek to demand the release of an ethnic Uyghur held in a Chinese jail.

Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen, was detained by Uzbek authorities in Tashkent in March and later deported to China.

Beijing accuses Celil of involvement in an attack six years ago on a state delegation in China's western Xingijang Province, the home of Turkic-speaking Uyghurs.

The demonstrators handed over a petition to a Chinese Embassy official and dispersed peacefully after about one hour.

Canada presses China over deported Uighur activist

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is pressing China to reveal what it has done with a Canadian citizen who is also a member of the Muslim Uighur minority, Canada's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Huseyincan Celil, who friends say fled China in the mid 1990s, was arrested in the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan in March. Uzbekistan has told Ottawa it deported Celil to China, the ministry said.

Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs account for about 8 million of the 19 million people in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang. Beijing has waged a long campaign against Uighur separatists, whom it labels terrorists.

Uighur activists say they fear China could put Celil, 37, on trial and then execute him. Celil has three young children in Canada and his wife is pregnant.

"When we were informed by Uzbekistan that Mr. Celil was extradited to China, Canada made immediate representations to the Chinese government ... we will continue to press China to confirm that he is in fact being held there," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Kim Girtel.

The Uighur Human Rights Project, an activist group based in the United States, said it feared Celil was "at extremely high risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and even execution."

Girtel said Ottawa had formally asked Uzbekistan to release Celil on humanitarian grounds.

Canada angered Uzbekistan last year when it agreed to resettle 50 Uzbek refugees, who fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan after troops quelled an uprising.

Uzbekistan: Family Demands Release Of Uyghur Imam Extradited To China

Uzbekistan: Family Demands Release Of Uyghur Imam Extradited To China
By Breffni O'Rourke
China -- Uyghurs (Uighurs) in Xinjiang
Uyghurs in Xinjiang, where Celil is from (file photo)
The family of a Canadian Muslim religious leader extradited from Uzbekistan to China is demanding his release. Imam Huseyincan Celil, an ethnic Uyghur activist, is reportedly facing possible execution. Family lawyer Chris MacLeod told RFE/RL from Toronto that the Canadian government must make the strongest possible representations to Beijing to get him released.

PRAGUE, June 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Huseyincan Celil traveled from his home in Canada to Tashkent early this year to meet in the Uzbek capital with three of his children, who still live in China.

But disaster struck on March 27 when Celil was detained by Uzbek authorities apparently acting on a request from China.

MacLeod says that for Beijing to "flagrantly" trample on human rights when it is in the midst of preparing to host the world at the Olympics "is an offense to all freedom-loving people around the world."

Detained And Extradited

Family members visited him regularly in detention in Tashkent until mid-June, when he disappeared. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs this week informed the family that Uzbekistan had extradited him to China.

"This is terrifying news," said Alim Seytoff, the director of the U.S.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project. He called this development "the worst-case scenario."

Seytoff was referring to the harsh treatment Chinese authorities have meted out to Uyghur rights activists and separatists seeking to restore an "East Turkestan" state in what is now China's western Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

Stronger Response From Canada?

In the Canadian capital, Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Department spokeswoman Kim Girtel said Canada would continue to press China to confirm that Celil is being held there.

But the Celil family's lawyer, Chris MacLeod, wants a more forceful approach. He told RFE/RL that Canada must let the world know that it should not "mess with Canadian citizens." He said in this case, Uzbekistan has seen fit to turn over a Canadian citizen to China without even consulting Canada.

"We want the Canadian government to very vigorously remind Beijing that 'A,' this is a Canadian citizen, he belongs nowhere other than in Canada; and 'B,' to remind them as well that China is hosting the 2008 Olympics -- a coming together of nations from around the world -- and that it is very inappropriate for them to be detaining Canadian citizens whose only offense has been exercising their right to express themselves," he said.

Uzbekistan, like Russia and other Central Asian republics, has a security agreement with Beijing that human rights groups say commits them to extradite any political dissidents wanted in China who arrive on their territory. China reportedly negotiated these deals with a view to countering the Uyghur separatists.

MacLeod says that for Beijing to "flagrantly" trample on human rights when it is in the midst of preparing to host the world at the Olympics "is an offense to all freedom-loving people around the world."

An Activist For Uyghur Issues

The lawyer denied that Celil had been involved in any acts of violence to further the Uyghur separatist cause.

"His 'crimes' -- if you can call them that -- in China were teaching Uyghur children -- those under the age of 18 -- their Turkic mother tongue, which is an offense; teaching them the tenets of their [Muslim] faith, and speaking out broadly against the oppressive tactics of the Chinese government in its dealings with the Uyghur people," he said.

Celil carried on similar activities in Canada as a Canadian citizen, advising and reminding the Canadian government of what the Uyghur people face in China. It was for this reason that he came onto the "radar screen" of the Chinese government, MacLeod said, and that's "just unacceptable."

However, China reportedly wants Celil on charges relating to an attack six years ago on a Chinese state delegation visiting Xinjiang province. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Further complicating the situation is that Celil's name appears in the sentencing document of Uyghur activist Ismail Semed, who was sentenced to death in 2005 for separatist activities. Celil is described in that document as an accomplice of Semed. It is not clear if Semed has already been executed.

Neither Uzbekistan or China has publicly commented on Celil's case.

Celil fled China in the 1990s for Turkey, and arrived in Canada in 2001 as a refugee.

The 37-year-old Imam has six children (three of whom are in Canada) and his wife, Kamila, is pregnant.

Canadian citizen facing execution in China

Watch the TV Program

Canadian citizen facing execution in China

Updated Wed. Jun. 28 2006 11:21 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

A Canadian citizen faces execution after being extradited from Uzbekistan to China.

Huseyincan Celil, a 37-year-old naturalized Canadian citizen from Burlington, Ont., was sentenced to death in China for human rights work he did on behalf of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province.

According to reports, Celil founded a political party in China to work on behalf of the Uyghur people.

Celil was arrested in March while he and his wife were visiting her family in Uzbekistan.

On Monday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canada informed his wife that he had been extradited to China.

"It's terrible they sent him to China. I have no idea whether he's alive or dead," Kamila Celil told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.

Celil said she has had contact with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney, but she has little reason to believe they can help.

During the four months her husband spent in prison in Uzbekistan, no foreign affairs representatives visited to speak on his behalf, Celil said.

However, according to reports, MacKay sent a diplomatic note to Uzbekistan demanding Celil's return.

The couple has three children together, and another on the way.

Celil said she spent two days in hospital after learning of the most recent development in her husband's situation.

Huseyincan Celil fled China in the mid-1990s and came to Canada in 2001 as a refugee.

The Foreign Affairs department is attempting to establish contact with China regarding Celil's status, and will reportedly demand that an official from the Canadian consulate be allowed to visit him in jail.