Supporters of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen detained in China, say that his court-appointed lawyer is inadequate and that Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has recommended they obtain independent legal advice there.
Mr. Celil, who was born in China but came to Canada as a refugee in 2001, was detained in Uzbekistan last March while travelling with his family on Canadian passports. Last summer, Uzbekistan deported him to China, where he faces multiple terrorism-related charges. Despite his Canadian citizenship, Mr. Celil has so far been denied access to Canadian consulate officials or lawyers.
Mr. Celil is a member of the Uighur people, a Muslim minority group whose calls for greater independence have angered officials in Beijing. Chinese officials have for years accused myriad Uighurs of terrorism -- one of Mr. Celil's childhood acquaintances was executed in China earlier this month -- but members of the Uighur community abroad say any act of defiance or separatism easily falls under the Chinese definition of terrorism.
Mehmet Tohti, the president of the Uighur Canadian Association, sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday asking for donations to help raise the $12,000 he estimates it will cost to hire an independent lawyer in China.
Mr. Tohti said he is unsure a new lawyer will be of much use to Mr. Celil. "The political powers in Beijing have already made a decision," he said of Mr. Celil's legal fate.
But a new lawyer might at least be able to prepare and present some documents in Mr. Celil's defence, something it doesn't appear his current lawyer has been able to do, Mr. Tohti said.
Mr. Tohti spoke with Mr. Celil's court-appointed lawyer over the weekend, he said. The lawyer told him he had met with Canadian officials, but otherwise there was little progress.
"He seemed a little bit scared," Mr. Tohti said of the lawyer.
In the meantime, Mr. Celil's immediate fate remains unclear. The first and last time he was seen in a public setting since his detention last March was early this month, when he appeared in a Chinese courtroom to hear charges against him.
While the practice of obtaining an independent lawyer is relatively straightforward in Canada, it is a far more unorthodox process in China, said Alex Neve, Canadian director of Amnesty International. Mr. Neve has been closely working on Mr. Celil's case since early in his detention.