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Woeser: Ilham’s Second Meeting with His Lawyers. He Is Charged with Organizing “an Eight-Person Criminal Separatist Clique”

Saturday, Aug 23, 2014
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Earlier this month Woeser posted a number of tweets that taken together give a basic account of what Ilham Tohti’s lawyers were able to learn durng the course of the second meeting they were permitted to have with him. Given the paucity of information that has trickled out about his case and his condition, I have translated Woeser’s original blog post so that at least something more can be known by the many people who remain deeply concerned about what has happened to Ilham since his arrest in January. 

photo 1

Ilham Tohti at Central Minzu University in Beijing, where he was appointed to the faculty (April 27, 2013)


Over a month ago the Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, a professor at Central Minzu University, who has been incarcerated in the Urumqi Public Security Bureau saw his two defense lawyers, Li Fangping and Wang Yu. According to what Attorney Li Fangping made public on WeChat, “Ilham firmly asserts his innocence. What he has said and what he has done has all been aimed at achieving the mutually beneficial and profitable organic integration of the nation, the nationalities and the Han nationality. In no way has he, by word or deed, supported separatism. He has only been hoping that regional nationality autonomy in Xinjiang would increasingly improve; that it would be increasingly rooted in the rule of law; that it would democratize; and that relations between the nationalities would become increasingly harmonious and stable.”

Due to the unceasing pressure from the authorities, Attorney Wang Yu was forced to withdraw from the case.

Afterwards, Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan replaced Attorney Wang Yu as Ilham’s defense lawyer. To understand Ilham’s case, he arrived in Urumqi on August 3, accompanying Attorney Li Fangping. What follows are Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan’s tweets (@liu_xiaoyuan) from August 4th and 5th:


August 4:

In the afternoon we arrived at the Urumqi Municipal Intermediate Court. The Criminal Court responded and asked that I hand over the formal paperwork appointing me.


August 4

In the afternoon Attorney Li Fangping and I arrived at the Urumqi Municipal Intermediate Court I handed over the paperwork appointing me to Ilham’s case. The Criminal Court stated that if we wanted to participate in full court meetings we would have to return again in the afternoon. In the afternoon we came to court once more but we were unable to contact the judge or the secretary and could only complain by telephone to the discipline-inspection group. The deputy director received us. He said the associate presiding judge in charge of the case was away on official business and there was no way we could go through the papers. He would return after a period of time.

photo 2

August 4 Urumqi Intermediate Court

Ilham’s case is of major significance for Xinjiang, indeed for the whole country. On July 30th the procuratorate moved the case to the Intermediate Court for prosecution. Xinhua announced this nationally. That same evening the court transmitted the indictment to Ilham, in the detention center . On August 4th, when we arrived at court to hand over the appointment papers and asked to examine documents, the court made us come back another time, later, on the grounds that the specific person handling the case was away on business. They were obviously playing with the lawyers.

Because I was serving as Ilham’s defense attorney, friends and internet contacts had differing views, to the point where an old friend urged me to withdraw from the defense or otherwise he would break off our relationship. But I considered that the responsibility of a criminal defense attorney was, after accepting appointment, to argue on the basis of law for the accused person’s innocence or minor implication in the crime, regardless of whether it was a common criminal offense or the crime of harming national security.


August 5

At 10:20 this morning Attorney Li Fangping and I met with Ilham in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Detention Center. The meeting lasted for up to 3 hours, wrapping up at 1:20, midday. The court had already given him the indictment on the evening of July 30. He considered that the accusations did not accord with the facts of the matter. He had not organized, planned or established a separatist group.


August 5

Today’s meeting with Ilham went smoothly, but when handling registration at the detention center they made us deposit our cell phones. When we entered the meeting hall to take care of formalities they again asked us to deposit packages we had brought with us.


August 5

Ilham has already received the indictment. The indictment cites section one of article 103 of the criminal code and not article 113. If the charge of separatism stands up, the severest prison term would be life imprisonment; he could not be sentenced to death.


August 5

Ilham insists that he has consistently opposed separatism, opposed terrorism, and opposed the incitement of hatred between nationalities. As an intellectual himself, especially as an Uyghur intellectual, he has closely followed political trends and social affairs, particularly the Xinjiang issue. Publishing his own opinions is quite normal and has nothing to do with separatism.


August 5

The indictment charges Ilham with setting up an 8-man criminal separatist clique with himself considered to be the most important member. He ought to be judged according to section 1 of article 103 of the criminal code. If the charges are upheld by the court, according to that clause he can be sentenced to life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment of more than 10 years.


August 5

Ilham’s spirits are good. He said that physically he is much, much thinner now than when he entered prison. There are 7 people sharing the cell he’s in. The others are suspected of drug and robbery offences.


August 5

Ilham said he chose to have his case heard in Chinese, which astonished the court.
Otherwise, according to what Attorney Li Fangping said in an interview with the BBC Chinese Service, it’s estimated that the earliest the trial could get underway would be late August. But we still need to take a look at the level of seriousness the authorities are according the case and they are unwilling to divulge anything.  On the evening of July 30, the Urumqi Municipal Intermediate People’s Court handed over the indictment to Ilham with full efficiency. We estimate that the authorities may be thinking of “a quick fight and a quick resolution.” Most recently Ilham has not gone on hunger strike in prison. Ilham’s spirits are not bad and he thoroughly and firmly rejects the charges against him. The personnel at the detention center are unwilling to pass on books to him and directly send them back. They have only agreed to pass on photos of his children.

The court judges handling Ilham’s case indicated that in the coming week they would be away on official business and that the two lawyers should best depart Urumqi and take care of the next stage of work.

Also, according to the Deutsche Welle interview with Attorney Li Fangping, up to now it’s been more than 6 months since Ilham was taken into custody and his prison uniform has been changed from no. 43 to no. 41. But comparing this visit with the visit with him in late June, his psychological state is still good. After receiving the indictment he has been writing a rebuttal day and night.

Attorney Li Fangping also divulged the particulars of a crucial point, which is that the indictment does not contain the accusation contained in the earlier charge issued by the Urumqi Public Security Bureau that Ilham “had colluded with external East Turkestan forces.” But up to the present his lawyers have, as before, been unable to examine the documents. Attorney Li Fangping once more emphasized that the Chinese Communist authorities’ accusations against Ilham don’t hold up: “What we see in the present circumstances are serious charges, including charges derived from Ilham’s own writings, from content that was recirculated and translated. Ilham also objects to these accusations. On the basis of the present evidence the charges don’t hold up.”

The authorities’ accusation about an “eight-person criminal separatist clique.”These eight people, aside from Ilham, are the seven people arrested at more or less the same time as Ilham: Mutellip Imin, a graduate student at Central Minzu University who was studying abroad in Turkey; Perhat Xalmurat, a graduate student in the School of Ethnology and Sociology at Central Minzu University; Atikem Rozi, a senior in the School of Ethnology and Sociology at Central Minzu University; Abduqeyyum Ablimit, a senior in the College of Information Science and Technology at Central Minzu University; Shohret Nijat, a graduate student at Renmin University; and Akbar Imin, a 2006 graduate of Central Minzu Unversity majoring in Anthropology and Ethnology and working for an NGO in the area of AIDS prevention and treatment. They are all of Uyghur nationality. In addition, there is a Central Minzu University graduate student of Yi nationality whose name is presently not known.



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