Jun 08, 2011

UPDATE: Where Is He Now?

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Ershidin Israel has been extradited to China where he now faces an uncertain future. 

Below is an article published by AlertNet:

Kazakhstan has extradited an ethnic Uighur schoolteacher who had been granted UN refugee status to face charges of terrorism in China, a diplomat said on Tuesday [7 June 2011], drawing condemnation from rights groups who said the case was politically motivated.

Activists have criticised Kazakhstan's decision to deport Ershidin Israil, saying he could suffer harsh treatment and even torture in China. Kazakhstan said China had agreed that the death penalty would not be applied. "Israil has been extradited to the People's Republic of China," Ilyas Omarov, press secretary for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, told Reuters. He said the handover had been made at the request of Interpol and had happened on May 30.

"The Chinese side gave written guarantees that Israil would not be executed," the diplomat said.

The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur people are native to China's far western region of Xinjiang, which is strategically located on the borders of Central Asia. Many of Xinjiang's 8 million Uighurs resent the growing presence and economic grip of the majority Han Chinese. Israil, who holds a Chinese passport, was arrested in Kazakhstan's financial capital Almaty on June 24 last year on terrorism charges, following a request from Interpol, Omarov said.  

On June 8, 2010, Israil had officially applied for refugee status in Kazakhstan. At the time, he held a refugee mandate issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Taking into account Israil's confessions on his role in a terrorist act in China's Xinjiang and ... his possible complicity in preparing a terrorist act in July 1997, the (migration) commission turned down (on Sept. 9, 2010) his request to obtain refugee status in Kazakhstan," Omarov said. "Granting Israil shelter in Kazakhstan, as well as in any third country, would pose a threat to the security of Kazakhstan and other countries."

The exiled World Uyghur Congress said Israil had fled Xinjiang in 2009 after providing information to Radio Free Asia about the death of another Uighur man.

That year, Uighurs rioted against Han Chinese residents in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi, killing at least 197 people, mostly Han.

"Israil's deportation appears to be based on accusations by the Chinese authorities of his involvement in 'terrorism,'" Human Rights in China said in a statement.

"Such accusations, however, were levied against Israil after he allegedly released details of the Sept 18, 2009 beating death of ethnic Uyghur Shohret Tursun, who had been detained by Chinese authorities following the Urumqi riots," it added.

China's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Omarov said that after studying Israel's case, the UNHCR annulled on May 3 its refugee mandate issued to Israel.

Neighbouring countries have deported Uighurs to China before.

In late 2009, Cambodia returned 20 Uighurs to China who they said had illegally entered the country, despite protests from the United Nations and the United States. 



To read a statement in the UN Human Rights Council by the Society for Threatened Peoples, click here.

To read further statements by leading Human Rights organizations, click here.