Kazakh court grants asylum to Xinjiang concentration camp fugitive

In a ruling, the judge accepts the asylum application of Sayragul Sauytbay, a Chinese of Kazakh ethnicity. Her testimony is essential to shed light on the concentration camps in the region, never recognized by Beijing. Lawyer: "If we send her back, this person will disappear".


Almaty (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Chinese woman of Kazakh ethnicity who fled the Xinjiang rehabilitation camps today received permission to stay in Kazakhstan, where she applied for asylum. A  judge of Zharkent municipal court handed down a  suspended suspension of a six-month sentence, with the obligation to register with police.

The woman, Sayragul Sauytbay, was in danger of being repatriated to China for crossing the border with false documents last April. The Kazakh police arrested her on May 21st. Since the end of 2016, Chinese authorities have withdrawn passports from all members of Muslim minorities in the region.

Her testimony is very important to shed light on the situation of re-education camps in the Uyghur region, never recognized by Beijing. Her lawyers state that if she is repatriated, she will be imprisoned and tortured.

After the sentence, speakinf the crowd outside the court Sauytbay said: "When I arrived in Kazakhstan, I had the feeling of being alone. Now I'm confident. I have my people, my nation, my homeland that can stand with me ".

It is the first time that Kazakhstan has opposed a ruling on a request for repatriation of China.

There are about 12 million Muslims in the Xinjiang territories. Most of them are of Uyghur ethnicity; about 1.5 million are of Kazakh ethnicity. Muslims of Uyghur ethnicity are subjected to harsh repression because they are suspected of separatism and terrorism. For two years the Chinese police have increased surveillance and violence, with restrictions also on religious freedom.

During the trial, Sauytbay spoke about a mountain rehabilitation camp where she was forced to work as a teacher. According to the woman's report there were about 2,500 people of Kazakh ethnicity in the camp. "In China they call it a political camp, but it was actually a mountain prison. I have worked in one of these camps and others have told me that there are two others "declared the woman. 

And she added: "The fact that I am talking about this camp in public means that I am already revealing state secrets". Several agencies report arrests and deportations to the concentration camps for tens of thousands of Uyghurs.

The case of Sauytbay has put the Kazakh government in difficulty. China is one of Kazakhstan's main trading partners. However, public opinion is increasingly angry over the fate of the "compatriots" locked up in the Chinese camps. Many Kazakh families no longer have news of relatives and friends who disappeared across the border.

Abzal Kuspanov, Sauytbay's lawyer, said in July that they did not contest the crime of illegal immigration with false documents, but that they were worried about the fate of the woman if she returned to China. "We are not saying that she did not commit a crime by violating the borders of the state using false documents. We admitted this to court and we are ready to accept the sentence. What we are saying is 'do not hand her back to China'. If we send her back, this person will disappear".