China sentences Uyghur scholar to life in jail
Rahile Dawut's sentence was confirmed after she appealed against a 2018, according to the US-based Dui Hua Foundation rights group.
KATHMANDU: A prominent Uyghur academic has been reportedly jailed for life by China for “endangering state security”.
Rahile Dawut’s sentence was confirmed after she appealed against a 2018, according to the US-based Dui Hua Foundation rights group.
The 57-year-old professor lost her appeal this month.
China has been accused of crimes against humanity against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”.
It has sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison terms.
“The sentencing of Professor Rahile Dawut is a cruel tragedy, a great loss for the Uyghur people, and for all who treasure academic freedom,” said John Kamm, executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation.
He called for her immediate release and safe return to her family.
Her daughter, Akeda Pulati, said that she worried about her mother every day.
“The thought of my innocent mother having to spend her life in prison brings unbearable pain. China, show your mercy and release my innocent mother,” she said in a statement released by Dui Hua.
Ms Dawut’s secret trial in December 2018 in a Xinjiang court followed her arrest the previous year for “splittism”, a crime of endangering state security.
A source in the Chinese government confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment to Dui Hua, the group said.
Ms Dawut is an expert on Uyghur folklore and traditions and had been teaching at Xinjiang University College of Humanities before her arrest.
She founded the Ethnic Minorities Research Centre at the university in 2007 and conducted field work throughout Xinjiang. She had lectured in universities in the US and UK, including Harvard and Cambridge.
Dui Hua said Ms Dawut was among “the long and growing list of Uyghur intellectuals” who have been detained, arrested, and imprisoned since 2016.
The US is among several countries to have accused China of genocide in Xinjiang. The leading human rights groups Amnesty and Human Rights Watch accuse China of crimes against humanity.
China denies the allegations.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning said on Friday she had “no information” on Ms Dawut’s case, according to AP.
There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, which is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and located in the north-west of China.
A series of police files obtained by the BBC in 2022 revealed details of China’s use of “re-education camps” and described the routine use of armed officers and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape.