03/10/2007, 00.00
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“Open” trials for 17 “Uygur terrorists" promised

Arrested in January for suspected links to Al-Qaeda, the proof of charges against them has yet to be revealed. Authorities insist on the terrorist threat, but refuse to provide any explanation pertaining to activities against the Uyghur.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – It will possibly be a public trial against the 17 Uyghur, presumed to be terrorists, who were arrested in January during a police raid on the Pamir highlands  of Xinjiang, near the Pakistan border.  The authorities insist they represent a terrorist threat but refuse to supply explanations regarding their actions against the local population. 

Shi Dagang, party secretary of the Kashgar district in Xinjiang, was unclear when the trials would be held and who would be allowed to attend, but Mr Shi described them as "open". Speaking to the press, Shi said the suspects were arrested in a training camp of the eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim), that they were being trained by the Taliban and in contact with al-Qaeda in view of a terrorist attack in China.   Despite this not a single foreigner was found by police during their raid, which resulted in the death of 18 presumed terrorists and one officer.  According to Shi, more than 1,500 partly assembled grenades and a large amount of explosives and weapons were seized from the camp. Beijing has long accused Etim of links to Islamic terrorism.

This notwithstanding Ismail Tiliwaldi, chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said there was increasingly less room for East Turkestan militants to operate in Xinjiang.   Speaking to journalists from the South China Morning Post, he failed to clarify the position of Ablikim Abdiriyim, son of well known activist Rebiya Kadeer, who is in forced exile following years of incarceration for his defence of Uygur rights.  Amnesty International has denounced that he is suffering serious ill health and that he is being denied medical care, following his sentencing on charges of “subversion” in a closet door trial.    

Various sources, including the United Nations accuse Beijing of using terrorism as a pretext for persecuting the Uygur ethnic population.  The regional Office for Religious affairs limits the population’s religious practice and bans women and children from Mosque attendance.  Islamic schools are also banned.  According to a local daily paper, in 2005 China arrested over 18,227 Uyghur on charges of representing “a threat to national security”.


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