(Mar 28, 2008)

China won't tell Canada what has become of a Burlington man in one of its prisons because they say it is none of Canada's business.

The news was communicated to Huseyin Celil's lawyer, Chris MacLeod, yesterday by Ottawa.

It came on the second anniversary of Celil's arrest after family members went to visit him in prison and were told he was not there.

MacLeod believes Celil is collateral in the crackdown in Tibet and China has decided "no one is going to talk to him, including his family."

The news has further upset his family, MacLeod says, including wife Kamila Telendibaeva.

"She's getting really strained and it's starting to take its toll, especially now where we don't know where he is," MacLeod said. "At least before, we knew where he was -- we just couldn't get him out."

Amnesty International sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the anniversary, reiterating a plea to appoint a high-level envoy to secure his release.

Celil became a Canadian in 2005 but China does not recognize his Canadian citizenship and has refused access to him in Bajiahu prison in northwest China. He is serving a life sentence for what family and friends say are trumped-up terrorism-related charges stemming from his work for his native Uyghurs in the 1990s.

MacLeod said Celil's mother and sister, who live in China, went to visit him in prison March 7 and 8. They were told he was not there and to return in three months.

They notified Canada's embassy in Beijing, which sent a note to China asking where he is and when his family can visit. MacLeod said the reply was, "We're not going to tell you anything. He's a Chinese citizen."

Foreign Affairs and Chinese Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

Amnesty International's letter