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China: Supporters Of Jailed Uighur Woman Call For Her Release

By Yaqub Turan

It's been a year since Chinese authorities arrested ethnic Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer on espionage charges. Amnesty International and other human rights organization contend there is no evidence she had access to any information that could be considered a state secret. The Uighur Human Rights Coalition says Kadeer is ill and should be released immediately. RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Yaqub Turan has this report:

Washington, 11 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Rebiya Kadeer was arrested a year ago this month. On March 10, an Urumqi intermediate court sentenced her to eight years in prison for allegedly selling state secrets to foreign institutions.

Human rights groups contend the only major evidence brought against her by the Chinese court was Kadeer's attempt to mail newspapers to her husband, Sidik Rouzi, who fled China four years ago and now lives in the United States.

In an RFE/RL interview, Kathy Polias, the executive director of the Uighur Human Rights Coalition, says Kadeer is not known to have been involved in any political opposition activities:

"The court referred to the fact that she tried to send newspapers to her husband, Sidik Rouzi, who is a political refugee living in the United States and that this was one of the major pieces of evidence that she was giving away state secrets to foreign institutions. All the newspapers that she was trying to send him were legally published newspapers that anybody could buy on the streets of Urumqi. So, these charges are really ridiculous."

Kadeer is a well-known and successful businesswoman. Human rights advocates contend the Chinese government is punishing her because of the activities of her husband in the U.S.

Polias says the Chinese government uses the term "state secret" as a tool to suppress political opposition and jail dissidents. She says the international community needs to pressure China to define what the term "state secret" really means.

Polias says Kadeer has an attorney, but that no family members were allowed to attend her trial.

"She was represented by a lawyer. There were no members of her family that were allowed to attend the trial in March, and none of the people in court were Uighur. I believe only her lawyer was Uighur, but none of the other people in court were Uighur. Her lawyer was not permitted to see her before she appealed."

Polias says the latest report by Amnesty International concludes that Kadeer is in poor health. She is known to suffer from heart ailments. Her supporters say the Chinese government has denied both her and her family's request to take her to the hospital.

A campaign is now underway by Amnesty International and some members of the U.S. Congress to free her.

Polias says:

"In February of this year, Senator William Roth (R-Delaware) introduced a resolution calling on the Chinese government to immediately release Rebiya Kadeer, her son, and her secretary."

Kadeer's son Ablikim Abdiriyim and her secretary Kahriman Abdukirim have also been arrested. Amnesty contends there was no evidence of their participation in any criminal activity. They were sentenced last November to two- and three-year terms in a re-education camp.

Chinese media say Abdiriyim was sentenced for supporting Uighur separatism.