Thursday, February 8, 2007

Detainee alive, tortured in jail, wife learns

By Wade Hemsworth
The Hamilton Spectator
(Feb 8, 2007)

Kamila Telendibaeva is now sure of two things she didn't know last week.

One is that her husband is alive. The other is that Chinese authorities have tortured him in prison.

"I'm 100 per cent sure they did it," she said yesterday.

Members of the family called Telendibaeva in Burlington from China Sunday night to tell her they had seen her husband, Huseyin Celil, testify in court that he had been tortured by captors who used sleep deprivation and threats in an unsuccessful effort to force him to admit he had been involved in terrorist activities.

The captors had reportedly told Celil, "No one cares about you and no one knows about you." They also are said to have told him they would not give Canadian authorities any information about him until he signed a confession.

Telendibaeva had spoken to the same relatives on Friday shortly after her husband's appearance in court, but in that first call they had not revealed what Celil had said about being tortured. They had withheld the information, fearing the line was tapped.

Two days later, using a different phone, they told her that he had described being tortured over a period of 10 to 15 days, shortly after being transferred to Chinese custody from Uzbekistan in June. The relatives -- Celil's sister and one other family member Telendibaeva declined to identify -- are in Urumqi, where Celil's trial is being held. His next appearance is expected to be some time in March.

Details from the trial have been sketchy, but the allegations of torture have set off a new round of political fireworks over Canada's efforts to compel China to open the Celil file.

Diplomatic officials are now en route to the location where Celil is being held, with directions to stay there.

Foreign Affairs declined to comment beyond Tuesday's remarks by foreign affairs secretary MP Helena Guergis, who told Parliament that Canada continues to press Chinese authorities, but that requests for information and trial dates had gone unanswered.

The relatives who called Sunday told Telendibaeva that Celil had described threats of being burned unless he signed documents admitting he had been involved in terrorist activities. He insisted that he had nothing to do with terrorism -- a denial that is supported by his family here.

Celil is a Canadian citizen who came in 2001 as a refugee from northwest China, where he had championed the cause of the Muslim Uygur people -- one of China's minority populations who are struggling for religious freedom.

He settled in Hamilton and later moved to Burlington. Last March, while visiting his wife's family in Uzbekistan, authorities there detained him. Three months later, Uzbekistan handed him over to neighbouring China.


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