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Amnesty International calls on PM Justin Trudeau to call for the Release of Huseyin Celil

    March 30, 2016

    March 2016 marks the 10th year that Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil has spent in a Chinese prison.

    As Prime Minister Trudeau prepares for a trip to China later this year, he must raise Huseyin Celil’s case with the Chinese authorities and call for his release.

    Huuseyin Celil, an ethnic Uighur, was imprisoned and abused while in prison in China in the 1990’s. He fled the country with his wife and they were resettled to Canada as refugees.  He became a Canadian citizen in 2005.  Huseyin Celil was detained by the Uzbek authorities and deported to China in 2006 while on a family visit to Uzbekistan.

    Amnesty International believes Huseyin Celil is imprisoned because of his advocacy on behalf of the rights of the Uighur minority group in China. He was originally sentenced to death, which was commuted to life in prison in 2007.  This sentence was further reduced, to less than 20 years in February 2016.  A reduction in his prison term is not enough.  Huseyin Celil has never had a fair trial and must be released from prison.  

    For years the Chinese authorities have clamped down on the largely Muslim, Uighur minority group which is concentrated in the northwest Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.  Uighurs face widespread discrimination in employment, education, housing, and curtailed religious freedom as well as political marginalization. 

    "His subsequent trial and sentencing was unfair, and may have been based on a case of mistaken identity” indicated Celil’s lawyer Chris MacLeod. “What actually happened in court in China 10 years ago is impossible to say, because the details have never been released.  But with Prime Minister Trudeau planning a trip to China later this year, I believe that now is the right time to demand Huseyin Celil’s release." 

    “Huseyin Celil is one of many Uighurs experiencing systematic and widespread human rights violations in China. Arresting a person because their advocacy on behalf of Uighur rights is a violation of their fundamental right to freedom of expression” said Amnesty International campaigner Gloria Nafziger.

    Huseyin Celil’s wife, Kamila and their 4 young sons (ages 16 to 9) live in Burlington Ontario.  Kamila has raised the couple’s 4 sons by herself for the last 10 years; a task which is tremendously complicated by their oldest son’s physical and mental disabilities. The family badly needs Huseyin Celil to be released and allowed to come home.   

    Amnesty International volunteer Wilf Ruland, who has spearheaded local efforts to support Huseyin Celil’s family, pleaded that “China needs to be humanitarian, and release Huseyin Celil now. He must be allowed to return to Canada to be with his family.  They have been without him for 10 years, and it is time to end their suffering.  The Prime Minister must raise this case with the Chinese authorities and emphasize the importance of respecting human rights and justice for Huseyin Celil."  

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332