China accused of torturing Chinese-Canadian prisoner

Friday, February 9, 2007

The family of a Chinese-Canadian imprisoned in China on terror-related charges say that the prisoner, Huseyin Celil is being tortured by Chinese police in order to make him sign a confession.

Celil has Canadian citizenship, which China has refused to recognize. Consular officials and his Canadian lawyer have not been permitted to meet him and his wife Kamila Telendibaeva hasn't seen him in almost a year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that Celil is being tried in accoordance with Chinese laws and that consular access does not apply since Celil is a Chinese citizen.

Huseyin Celil's sister, mother and older brother say that they are speaking out despite fears that the police would arrest them.

The family says that if Celil, who fled China in the 1990s and sought refuge in Canada, living in Hamilton, does not sign the confession, he would be "put in a hole and buried alive." Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan in 2005 and extradicted to China. Chinese authorities say he is a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which China and the United States consider to be a terrorist organisation.

Celil alleged that he has been tortured during a court appearance during which his sister and son were present. Canadian officials were not permitted to be present at the trial.

This issue has caused friction between Canada and China, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper questioning China's human rights record. The issue was also brought up when Harper spoke with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vietnam last November.

Canadian media report that Canadian federal officials have been dispatched to China and will stay in the country.

China's assistant foreign affairs minister He Yafei said Celil is suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.