Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Ilham Tothi was denied food for more than a week and his legs have been shackled for the past few weeks, his lawyer says. Mr. Tothi, an economics professor and well-known ethnic Uyghur activist for the rights of minorities living in China, has been detained since January. His lawyer Li Fangping met him for the first time this week.
The academic was denied food after an attack on a Kunming train station in March that killed 29 people. The attack was blamed on Uyghur separatists by the Chinese authorities.
Tohti, 45, is famous for his public speeches in favor of the Uyghur cause. This ethnic group lives in the northern autonomous region of Xinjiang, is of the Turkish language and the Muslim faith, and denounces a strong linguistic, cultural and religious repression by the Chinese central government.
However there is no record of Tohti's support the cause of separatism and he maintains his innocence. "He believes that in his words and deeds, he has always sought to work for the country's national interests and the organic integration of the Han Majority and Uyghur minority," said Li.
The lawyer added that Tohti went on a hunger strike in January for 10 days to protest against being served food that did not follow Islamic dietary laws. Authorities force-fed him milk when his organs started bleeding.