SAN FRANCISCO (FEBRUARY 2, 2016) – In a rare act of mass clemency, the Xinjiang High People’s Court has reduced the sentences of 11 Uyghurs convicted of endangering state security and terrorism. The reductions were announced at a rally held at Xinjiang Number One Prison on February 1, 2016.

Among those who benefited is the Canadian national Huseyin Celil, whose life sentence was reduced to a fixed term sentence. (The new sentence has not yet been announced). Celil, an Iman from Hamilton Ontario, fled China and gained refugee status in Turkey from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in 2000, after which he went to Canada, where he was granted Canadian citizenship in November 2005. China has refused to recognize his Canadian citizenship.

Celil was detained in Uzbekistan on March 27, 2006 and subsequently extradited to China, where he was detained, arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison for endangering state security and organizing a terrorist organization on April 4, 2007. Celil was allowed to speak at the sentence reduction rally. He reportedly thanked the prison authorities for treating him well.

Six other prisoners serving life sentences had their sentences commuted, while four serving fixed term sentences had their sentences reduced. One of these was released, having completed his sentence.

Aside from Celil, the report mentions two other prisoners whose sentences were either reduced or commuted:

  • Dr. Mehmetjan Abduqadir of Urumqi University Medical School, detained in 2009 and subsequently sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for subversion in 2011; and
  • Muhammed Tohti Metrozi, detained in 2003 and sentenced in 2005 to life in prison for splittism.

All three prisoners named in the report have figured on lists submitted by Dui Hua to the Chinese government in recent years.

“This rare act of clemency has come about after years of hard work by the Canadian government, and reflects lobbying by international human rights groups and concerned citizens,” said John Kamm, Dui Hua’s Executive Director. “We welcome this development, and hope that other acts of clemency will follow.”