November 2, 2004

Tibet: China releases Tibetan Activist after Five Years

Chinese authorities have released a Tibetan monk after he completed a five-year prison term, a human rights group in this headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile has announced
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Chinese authorities have released a Tibetan monk after he completed a five-year prison term, a human rights group in this headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile has announced.

Chinese authorities in Tibet released Geshe Sonam Phuntsok earlier this week, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said Wednesday quoting confirmed information received by it.

Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, 53, popularly known as Kardze Geshe, was imprisoned for his religious activities and for conducting a prayer ceremony for the Dalai Lama's long life in October 1999.

The TCHRD release said Geshe was taken to his home in Rongbatsang district in the Kardze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture on Tuesday by officials of the Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) in a government vehicle.

Two days before that, Geshe had undergone medical treatment after his release from a prison in Tazhu County, the rights group said, expressing fears that he was in poor health after his lengthy imprisonment and maltreatment in jail.

His father had visited him twice in prison and described him as being semi-conscious and not being able to move properly.

Detailing the circumstances leading to Geshe's arrest, the TCHRD said he had been arrested on Oct 25, 1999, at gunpoint by about 20 PSB officers when he was barely clothed and in bare feet.

The arrest of the activist, who had been ordained as a monk when he was 18, had created a storm of protest. Many Tibetans were detained in demonstrations demanding his immediate and unconditional release and a protester even died while in custody.

In March 2001, Geshe was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on charges that included "travelling to India on an illegal document procured from Lhasa for seeking audience with the Dalai Lama and for taking photographs with him" and for "conducting long-life prayer ceremony for the Dalai Lama in Rongbatsang", the group stated.

While Geshe is out from prison, the TCHRD has also taken up the cause of another activist sentenced to death for "causing explosions" and "inciting separatism".

Trulku Tenzin Delek's execution will be confirmed by Jan 25, 2005, if his death sentence with a two-year reprieve is not reversed.

As part of its 'save Trulku Tenzin Delek' campaign, the TCHRD has released an eight-page brochure detailing his arrest, court trial, imprisonment and recommendations for further action.

Delek, a popular religious figure from Sichuan Province in eastern Tibet, was sentenced to death on Dec 2, 2002, along with his disciple Lobsang Dhondup. While Delek was sentenced to death with two years' suspension and deprivation of political rights for life, Dhondup was given immediate death penalty.

In a statement, the TCHRD said that the arrest and trial of the two exemplifies China's disregard of fundamental human rights of Tibetans and violation of international law as well as domestic laws.

The verdict is in breach of China's criminal law and criminal procedure law which stipulate that only Supreme People's Court may exercise death penalty review and approval authority, it added.

The TCHRD has reiterated its belief that Delek is innocent and condemned his death sentence as the "ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment".

It has urged authorities in Bejing to free Delek from execution and life imprisonment and to release him unconditionally or else grant him a fair retrial with proper legal access and defence.

Source: Onlypunjab