A Uighur schoolteacher is facing politically motivated terror charges in China after he reported a death in custody, Amnesty International said today following his extradition from Kazakhstan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday confirmed that Ershidin Israil is being held on terrorism charges as a "major terror suspect", although the charges were not substantiated.
"It appears that Ershidin Israil's only 'crime' was to report a human rights abuse. He was living openly before fleeing the country and only appears to have become a 'major terror suspect' after divulging the inside story of torture in Chinese jails to the world," said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.
"This makes him a prisoner of conscience, detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and the Chinese authorities must release him. Currently, he is at grave risk of torture and an unfair trial."
Israil fled on foot to Kazakhstan from China in September 2009, just days after giving an interview to a foreign journalist about the death in custody of a young Uighur, Shohret Tursun, in the wake of the July 2009 unrest in Urumqi, China.
After the interview the Chinese authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, along with two other individuals involved in reporting the death in custody.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kazakhstan granted Israil refugee status in March 2010 and he was due to be resettled in Sweden on 1 April, 2010.
However, he was instead taken into custody by the Kazakh authorities in April 2010 and formally arrested in June 2010. He was in prison until his extradition this year.
The UNHCR revoked his refugee status on 3 May 2011, reportedly under intense pressure from the Chinese and Kazakh authorities. The UN refugee agency has refused to disclose the grounds for their decision.
Israil was reportedly handed over the Chinese authorities on 30 May.
Chinese nationals are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms for providing information deemed sensitive by the Chinese authorities to foreign sources.