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Woeser: Attorneys Liu Xiaoyuan and Li Fangping Disclose Ilham’s Current Condition, Having Been Shackled in Leg Irons for 29 Days

Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
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As I post this, Ilham Tohti’s trial is opening in Urumqi. There is little that needs to be said to indicate how groundless the charges levelled against him are. The Party and the State seem wholly incapable, ideologically or practically, to understand the fundamentally disastrous nature of policies being pursued in Xinjiang. One might start thinking that the inability to question these policies is inscribed in the Party’s DNA. Thus, as in Tibet, with no capability for posing the question “What have we been doing wrong here?” the authorities ask the only question (and it is a false one) left to them “Who has done this to us?” And so a scapegoat must be found. Just as the Dalai Lama is time and again made the scapegoat for Tibetan resentments, so too Ilham Tohti is now being made the scapegoat for all that is going wrong and all that is worsening in Xinjiang.

A week ago Woeser posted on her blog the most recent social media messages from Ilham’s lawyers. With his trial now underway they are, at this moment, particularly relevant and particularly poignant. An innocent man, a man of courage and vision, is standing in the dock facing those who seek to silence him by locking him away for years to come…


On the afternoon of January 15, 2014, Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur scholar at Central Minzu University was taken from his home by Xinjiang and Beijing police.

On January 16, 2014, a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson claimed that Ilham was a suspect in a criminal case.

On January 25, 2014, the Urumqi Public Security Bureau released information on its weibo site stating that “according to investigations, Prof. Ilham Tohti of Central Minzu University colluded with external ‘East Turkestan’ powers; used the internet to agitate for ‘Xinjiang Independence;’ used his classroom to incite the overthrow of the government; used his position as a professor to engage in separatist activities; formed a separatist criminal gang with himself as ringleader; and created a serious threat to national security and social harmony.”

On February 2, 2014, the Urumqi Public Security Bureau, in a communication to Ilham’s wife, stated “Having obtained permission from the Urumqi Municipal People’s Procuratorate, our office carried out the arrest of Ilham Tohti on February 20, 2014, on ‘suspicion of the crime of separatism.’ He is currently being held in the Detention Center of the Autonomous Region’s Public Security Department.”

On June 23, 2014, Ilham’s lawyers, Li Fangping and Wang Yu, arrived in Urumqi so as to understand the state of affairs in the progress of Ilham’s case. For the information released by Attorney Li Fangping, see here. Due to unceasing pressure from the authorities, Attorney Wang Yu was forced to withdraw from the case and was replaced by Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan.

On August 3, 2014, Attorneys Li Fangping and Liu Xiaoyuan arrived in Urumqi so as to understand Ilham’s case. For the information released by Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan and the foreign media interview with Attorney Li Fangping, see here. Ilham was accused of organizing an eight-person criminal separatist clique. Of the eight people, aside from Ilham, the seven who were arrested at more or less the same time as him are all young students (university, graduate, postgraduate, or exchange students). Six are Uyghurs, one is of Yi nationality.
On September 3, 2014, Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan came to Urumqi once again. Below are the news and the pictures released by Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan on Twitter and WeChat between September 3rd and September 7th:

September 3. Arrived in Urumqi once again.



September 3. In the afternoon I saw two of the presiding judges who will be on the collegiate judicial bench trying Ilham’s case at the Urumqi Intermediary Court. We conversed for over an hour. I repeatedly requested that they let Ilham participate in the pre-trial meeting. The judges finally said they would again ask for instructions. According to what the judges presented, the presiding judge of the collegiate judicial bench in the trial is appointed by the deputy procurator. If the case does not involve state secrets, then the preliminary hearing can be public. I raised the point that if the accused is not allowed to participate, there’s no necessity for the pre-trial meeting.



September 4. Today I saw Ilham in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Detention Center. What struck me as unexpected was that he was brought to the visitation room wearing leg irons. Remember that when Attorney Li Fangping and I saw him on August 5 he wasn’t wearing leg irons. He told us that, including him, there are eight people locked up in his cell. The other seven had already been convicted (i.e., already sentenced) and they normally insulted him. On August 9 two of the criminals were once again cursing Ilham and they started hitting his head with their fists. He sounded the alarm. The assistant director of the center and the disciplinary personnel came and said there was no fighting and nothing for which an alarm had to be sounded. The criminals sharing his cell waited for the assistant director and the others to leave and began insulting him again. Ilham resisted and the detention center police said that he was fighting and put him in leg irons. After I’d met with him I made a report to the detention center. The response I got was that he had been fighting and was being punished according to their internal regulations. The visit wrapped up close to noon; the detention center allowed me to return at 3:30 in the afternoon to continue the visit. Now, at noon, I have no place to go: after eating at a place by the roadside I’m sitting in the bus station writing on WeChat.



September 4. Ilham said “Until now I have supported the unity of the country and opposed separatism. I’d never thought about separatism and never participated in any separatist activities. Furthermore, I haven’t organized any so-called separatist organization. I have advocated that Xinjiang be governed according to the law, which includes the implementation and improvement of the system of regional nationality autonomy; respect for the legal system; respect for human rights; permission for all nationalities to share equitably in the fruits of development; equality in employment; the elimination of discrimination, including regional discrimination, nationality discrimination, gender discrimination, status discrimination, etc., etc.”



September 4. At 3:30 in the afternoon I met once more with Ilham. We wrapped up at 5:10. Afterwards, when I got to the inspection room I reflected on the question. When I exited through the main gate of the detention center it was already 6:00 p.m. Ilham’s psychological state was still good, but his physical state wasn’t good. On the right side his waist and his abdomen felt hard; the right side of his abdomen was aching. The whites of his eyes seemed to have “cataracts.” When we spoke of his children he wept.

September 5. This morning I went to the Urumqi Intermediate Court once more and handed over to the judge Ilham’s written request to participate in the pre-trial meeting. The judge said that the proposal for Ilham’s participation in the pre-trial meeting had been raised on the 3rd and reported to the leading levels of the court. They had now agreed to Ilham’s participation. But because the 7th is Sunday the court can’t coordinate with the detention center.

September 6. This afternoon I went again to the Urumqi Intermediate Court to shoot photos of the translation of Ilham’s case dossier (Uyghur translated into Chinese). The judge informed me that tomorrow they will bring Ilham to court to take part in the pre-trial meeting

September 7. This morning at 10:30 a.m. the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court opened the pre-trial meeting in the criminal separatism case of Ilham Tohti. The judge had responded yesterday and said they had already been in touch with the detention center and that Ilham Tohti could be brought to court to participate in the pre-trial meeting. The original plan had been for him to not participate, but after negotiations with the defense counsel the court had accepted the defense counsel’s view.

September 7. It’s only a pre-trial meeting in which we’re participating, but the bailiff still wants to rigorously inspect my briefcase. At the second stage of the security check they again want me to deposit my cell phone. I asked, “Does the prosecutor needed to be inspected?” The judge said “We trust the prosecutor!”

During the second stage of the security check in the judicial office building the bailiff wanted us to deposit our cell phones. I objected and the bailiff wouldn’t let us enter. I requested the intervention of the presiding judge and after 20 minutes the presiding judge (the deputy procurator) came to the room and agreed that we could enter the courtroom without depositing our cell phones. After the hearing ended I requested of the collegiate judicial bench that in the future when I come to the opening of court sessions I receive equal treatment, in terms of security, as that accorded to the prosecutor. Today in court submachine gun-toting riot police were working overtime. I joked with one of them, asking if the gun was loaded. He unloaded the magazine and let me look: it was filled with bullets.

September 7. The pre-trial meeting on Ilham’s case started at 10:50 a.m. and ended at 1:50 p.m. It lasted for three hours. Ilham participated in the meeting. The time for the opening of the trial hasn’t been decided.

September 7. This time I’ve been in Urumqi altogether for five days, reviewing Ilham’s case dossier, meeting with Ilham and participating in the pre-trial meeting. I’ve had to fight for any rights. If I hadn’t fought for Ilham, the court would not have allowed his participation in the pre-trial meeting. At today’s hearing Ilham raised strong doubts about the Urumqi Intermediate Court’s jurisdictional authority in the case. We don’t believe this court has jurisdictional authority; it should be moved to the jurisdiction of an Intermediate Court in Beijing.

If the judiciary were independent, if the case could be tried fairly, it would just mean they’d have to add several prosecutors; and what would be the harm in that? A university teacher under long-term monitoring, who was ultimately able, under the very eyes of the police, to plot and organize a criminal separatist clique and to implement criminal separatist activities: how could one say that this is anything other than fantasy?

There are more than 200 essays and articles that are part of the accusation of criminal separatism. We were supplied with a detailed index of over 100. The prosecutor said there are some articles that sum up his core thoughts. Ilham said this is punishment for the expression of an opinion. I say this is thought crime.

The presiding judge reminded us that we can’t divulge the details of the case. I asked if the case involves state secrets, commercial secrets, or personal and private matters. He said it doesn’t, and that it will be heard publicly. Rhetorically I asked him, why, if it doesn’t involve these things, the details can’t be divulged? Afterwards the presiding judge revised his comment and said that it was because file evidence cannot be made public prior to trial. I persisted and raised the point that since it will be a public hearing, when the case is being heard later, we can’t arrange that staff personnel attend; we should openly permit ordinary people from society at large to attend. If staff personnel must absolutely be invited to attend, I suggested that the court invite officials from the autonomous region’s government, Ministry of Security, and Politics and Law Commission; it should also invite the attendance of deputies to the National People’s Congress. But it must leave seats to allow for family members to attend.

September 7. Ilham’s case has five prosecutors. But there are only two defense attorneys. Today four prosecutors attended the meeting. Next time, when the trial opens, it’s quite likely that all five prosecutors will appear in order to support the accusations. According to the law for criminal proceedings, each defendant can only have two defense lawyers, but as for the number of prosecutors, there’s no limit!


September 7. I’m quickly boarding the flight. Goodbye Urumqi. Goodbye Ilham. See you next time!


September 7. Ilham is four years younger than me. He’s gone through eight months of being locked up (he was arrested on January 15). He already looks old. He wasn’t wearing leg irons when he participated in today’s pre-trial meeting. But I don’t know if they’ll put them on again when he’s sent back to the detention center.


September 5, 2014. Attorney Li Fangping came to Urumqi once again. Below are the news and the pictures released by Attorney Li Fangping on WeChat on September 6th and 7th:


September 6. [The Urumqi Intermediate Court Duty Room: “I’ve seen people carrying guns; what do I care about an attorney’s ID?”] Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan and I arranged to meet in the duty room of the Urumqi Intermediate Court to get in touch with Judge Patimem. We wanted the staff person in the duty room to connect us on the internal phone line. He said he couldn’t. We showed our attorney’s ids and explained things. He suddenly said “I’ve seen people carrying guns; what do I care about an attorney’s ID?”

September 6. [29 days in leg irons; Ilham’s ankles are infected]

Seeing Teacher Ilham entering wearing iron links as thick as a thumb, his hands carrying iron chains, and walking unsteadily, I asked him “When did this start”

“August 9th.”

“Are you in pain?”

“It got infected twice. It’s nothing. These are small matters. What I’ve done, what you are arguing for: these are all matters of great national and historical responsibility.”
After our meeting I asked the duty officer: “What was the cause of this?”

“Others attacked him. He fought back.”

“When can they remove the leg irons?”

“I don’t know.”

“Generally, each instance lasts how long?”

“15 days. The added another 15 days.”

I intended, once tomorrows pre-trial meeting was over, to stay in Urumqi until the 10th, to see if the leg irons could be removed.



September 7. After three hours the pre-trial meeting was over. Ilham was escorted by six police vehicles from the Urumqi Intermediate Court.

September 7. Teacher Ilham wanted to stop for a minute and say a few words to his attorneys. A big strong bailiff immediately blocked him and quickly pushed him away by the neck.

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