Urgent Action Needed to Save Canadian Muslim Held in Uzbekistan
Huseyin Celil Faces Torture, Execution if Sent to China
Contact Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay (see details below)
Canadians have become familiar with the names of a number of Muslim men -- Maher Arar, Ahmed El-Maati, Muayyad Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki, among others -- who have faced being detained and tortured while overseas. Huseyin Celil, a father of six and a resident of Burlington, Ontario, currently faces torture and possible execution unless the Canadian government speaks up strongly and calls for his release.
Born in China in 1969, Mr. Celil advocated for the rights of the minority Uygur people, for which he was arrested and tortured by Chinese authorities. He escaped from prison and received asylum through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. While he settled in Canada and became a citizen, he was unable to be reunited with three of his children, left behind in China.
He recently travelled back to Uzbekistan in the hope that relatives there might be able to facilitate reunification with his three older children (he also has three Canadian children). But on his arrival in that country March 26, he was detained. It appears that Uzbekistan is prepared to hand him over to Chinese authorities, where he faces likely execution for his past support of human rights (an all-too common occurrence in China).
This story is becoming painfully familiar, especially for members of Canada's Muslim community. The government of Canada needs to speak up strongly and demand that Mr. Celil be released and returned home. We certainly hope that Canada's interest in maintaining huge investments in the Chinese economy will not prevent officials in Ottawa from speaking out on behalf of one of their citizens.
Please contact Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay (sample letter below) and cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org It's a good idea to cc your own MP and ask that s/he speak up about this in the House of Commons as well. CC Prime Minister Stephen Harper at email@example.com
Toronto Action for Social Change
Honourable Peter MacKay
125 Sussex Drive,
Dear Hon. Peter MacKay:
RE: Huseyin CELIL (JELIL)
Canadian Citizen Imprisoned in Uzbekistan
I am writing because I heard about the case of Huseyin Celil, (Jelil), a Canadian citizen and father of six children currently imprisoned in Uzbekistan and facing possible deportation to China, where he faces torture and execution for his past record as a human rights activist. Mr. Celil is of Uygur ethnicity, originally from China. He came to Canada as a refugee in 2001 after having escaped a year of torture in a Chinese prison. He recently became a Canadian citizen along with his wife and 3 of his children. He had gone to Uzbekistan to see if he could be reunited with his three older children, who have been unable to emigrate to Canada.
It is clear that if Uzbekistan turns Mr. Celil over to China or Kyrgyzstan, he will be returned to the torture from which he originally escaped, and will likely face execution as well. As you know, China's record with respect to human rights activists is an especially poor one.
I am calling on you to speak out strongly and publicly for the immediate release of Mr. Celil and guaranteed safe passage back to Canada.
New Canadian citizen held in Uzbek jail
>From Thursday's Globe and Mail
OTTAWA - His new Canadian passport was not enough to protect Huseyin Celil, a Muslim refugee who is being held in a prison in Uzbekistan and facing possible deportation to China, where he is under sentence of death.
Friends say that Mr. Celil, 37, a father of six, was arrested by Uzbek authorities March 26 on a Chinese warrant when he arrived in Tashkent, the capital of the Central Asian nation, hoping to be reunited with his three eldest sons.
Mr. Celil, who has been a Canadian citizen for only a few months, was sentenced to death in absentia by courts in his native China for founding a separatist political party and other alleged subversive political activity.
He is a member of the Uighur Muslim minority that inhabits a remote but oil-rich region of western China.
Burhan Celik, a family friend who lives in Ottawa and who speaks the same native language as Mr. Celil, said the new Canadian citizen understood there were risks visiting Uzbekistan.
"He knew it was dangerous. But he wanted to see his sons. He has three teenage sons. It's something any father would do," Mr. Celik said yesterday.
Mr. Celil had good reason to believe that China would allow the older sons to travel to Uzbekistan, Mr. Celik said.
The Uighur people have travelled back and forth for many years. At one point, China and Uzbekistan are separated by only a thin strip of Kyrgystan.
Mr. Celil's three eldest sons remained behind in China when he escaped the country. His wife, Kamila, was able to join him in Canada.
The couple have lived in the Hamilton area for four years. He is an imam at a mosque in the city. The couple have three other children born in Canada.
The Celils and their three youngest -- all travelling on Canadian passports -- planned the reunion in Tashkent, where Kamila Celil has family.
Mr. Celik, the family friend, said he got a telephone call informing him that Mr. Celil had been arrested on March 31 and he immediately informed the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.
He said he was in telephone contact again yesterday with Kamila Celil, and she has been unable to see her husband. "She is very scared."
She does not want to leave Tashkent until she sees her husband and is sure he is alive and well.
Canada has no full-time diplomats in Tashkent. There is an honorary consul, who has reportedly offered to help Kamila Celil and her children return to Canada.
The Canadian Embassy in Moscow is handling the case, officials in Ottawa said. Canadian privacy laws prevent them from releasing details, they said.
Mr. Celik fears that unless Canada applies diplomatic pressure on Uzbekistan, the regime there will deport his friend to China, where he faces almost certain execution despite his Canadian passport.
Uzbekistan and China have close diplomatic and economic relations. Uzbekistan's human rights record is spotty.
Amnesty International reported last year that its government still obtains evidence by torture.
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