China: Trial Delayed for Uyghur Christian
The trial of Uyghur Christian Alimjan Yimit has been delayed until early June, apparently due to difficulties in translating court documents. Yimit was arrested in January on charges of “endangering national security,” but is believed by friends to have actually been arrested because of his conversion from Islam and growing involvement in the Uyghur Christian church.
5/13/08 China (CompassDirect) Court officials in Kashgar, Xinjiang province may soon decide the fate of Uyghur Christian Alimjan Yimit, arrested on January 12 and accused of “endangering national security.”
Alimjan’s trial, delayed in April, should be underway by early June, according to Compass sources. In Chinese documents, his name appears as Ahlimujiang Yimit.
Family members still fear that, in the wake of recent unrest in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, Alimjan may be branded a separatist – a crime punishable by death.
The delay was caused partly by the need to translate court documents, according to a China Aid Association (CAA) report on Thursday (May 8). Many of the court documents, including interrogation records from the Xinjiang State Security Bureau (SSB), were written in Uyghur, causing problems for Han Chinese attorneys handling the case.
During Alimjan’s employment with two foreign-owned companies, officials from the SSB regularly called him in for interrogation, physically abusing him and forbidding him to discuss the questioning with anyone.
They also searched his house regularly and seized his personal computer.
Seeking a fair trial, Alimjan’s present lawyer, Liang Xiaojun, has requested that a Han Chinese public procurator and judge be assigned to handle the case.
His previous lawyer, Zhang Kai, traveled from Beijing to Kashgar in late February, but the State Security Bureau refused to allow him to meet with Alimjan, citing unspecified “national security” issues, according to CAA.
Alimjan, once a Muslim, converted to Christianity more than 10 years ago and became active in the growing Uyghur church. Friends believe this was the real reason for his arrest.
Officials closed Alimjan’s business last September and accused him of using it as a cover for “preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity.” After detaining him in January, they told his family only that the arrest was a matter of “national security.”
Local sources, however, were adamant that Alimjan was neither a separatist nor a terrorist but had consistently affirmed his loyalty to the Chinese government. (See Compass Direct News, “Unrest in China Raises Fears of Execution of Christian,” April 9.)
Troubles in Xinjiang
Another Uyghur Christian, Osman Imin, arrested on November 19, 2007, remains in detention, accused of “leaking state secrets.” In Chinese documents, Osman’s name appears as Wusiman Yaming.
Compass has confirmed that a third Uyghur believer arrested earlier this year also remains in detention in Xinjiang.
Separately, in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, court officials in February dismissed charges of “illegal business operations” against Zhou Heng, a Han Chinese Christian and manager of the Yayi Christian Book Room, a registered bookstore. He was detained in August 2007 for receiving a shipment of illegally published Bibles.
Prison officials initially forced Zhou to sleep on a concrete floor in a cell with 14 other inmates, who along with guards severely beat him. They also initially denied him access to a lawyer, citing “national security” issues.
After an international outcry, officials finally assigned him a lawyer in September, CAA reported.
In November of last year, a court document stated that, “After reviews and additional investigations this procuratorate still believes that the crime determined by Shayibake District Branch of Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau is not based on clear facts and does not have sufficient evidence. Therefore it is decided not to prosecute Zhou Heng.”
Officials, however, held Zhou in detention until February 19.
Tight security measures remain in place in Xinjiang, after residents in the towns of Hotan and Kashgar protested against the death in custody of a prominent Uyghur businessman.
Returning the body of Mutallip Hajim to his relatives on March 3 after he had spent two months in custody, police said he had died of heart trouble and instructed the family to bury him immediately and inform no one of his death, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report.
Protestors on March 23 demanded that authorities cease using torture to suppress Uyghur demands for greater autonomy and drop a proposed ban on headscarves in the predominantly Muslim region, RFA said. Police reportedly arrested around 400 Uyghurs during the protests.
Recently a convoy of 50 People’s Liberation Army trucks arrived in the city of Kashgar, along with a host of military officers from neighboring Gansu province, according to the May 10 Sydney Morning Herald.
“Riot police in open trucks were a daily sight in Urumqi,” the newspaper reported, “and hundreds of village walls have been painted with red slogans urging people to put the nation first and build a peaceful society.”