Trial of Uyghur Scholar IIham Tohti called into question in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the move by the People’s Procuratorate of China to not allow access to independent and foreign media to the trial of a Uyghur scholar. The IFJ is also concerned with reports that Ilham Tohti has experienced a number of human rights violations while in police custody.

The 44-year-old, a well-known scholar from the Nationalism University in Beijing, was  on trial for several ‘separatism’ charges including hatred and forming an anti-government organisation, on September 17. However no independent or foreign media were allowed to enter the court room in Urumqi, Xingjiang.

Ilham’s defence lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuna and Li Fangping, have accused the court that the trial is not according to due process and there is a lack of evidence against their client. The evidence comes from Ilham’s lectures, articles from Uyghur Online and interviews with the media. Prosecutors have also accused Ilham of encouraging students to spark unrest on July 5, 2009.

Ilham’s defence lawyers claim he is being mistreated in detention and has been denied access to his legal team and family. They say his foot was put in shackles and he was denied access to food for more than a week. Seven people, including some of Ilham’s student and volunteers working for Uyghur Online are awaiting their own trials.

According to Principle 6 of the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, personal expression may be punished as a threat to national security only if a government can demonstrate that the expression is intended to incite imminent violence, and there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “This is the typical case in China. China is one of the members of Human Rights Council in United Nation; it has a duty to uphold this basic principle instead of violating the human rights of its citizens.”

“As is outlined in Article 35 of the Chinese constitution, citizens have a right to speak, which pulls into question the case against Ilham. We urge the government and judiciary to give Ilham a fair trial and investigate his reports of human rights violations in detention.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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