Man executed in China belonged to same minority group as Burlington detainee
With Spectator wire services
(Feb 10, 2007)
The wife of a Burlington man imprisoned in China is reeling after hearing that another man, detained for similar reasons, has been executed.
Kamila Telendibaeva sat in the living room of her Burlington home and wept Wednesday as she listened to the choked words of the man's widow on Radio Free Asia.
"She was crying and couldn't speak very clearly," she said.
The woman's sorrow resonated with Telendibaeva, whose own husband, Huseyin Celil, was arrested last March while visiting his wife's family in Uzbekistan.
Three months later, officials there handed the former Hamilton imam over to neighbouring China, where he is accused of participating in alleged terrorist separatist activities.
Ismail Semed was reportedly shot to death on Tuesday after spending years in a Chinese prison in the same western Chinese province where Huseyin is being held.
Both belonged to the same Uyghur minority group whose members claim they have struggled for decades under repressive Chinese occupation.
China has long insisted that militants among the Turkish-speaking Muslim group are part of a violent separatist movement.
Telendibaeva said Semed's shooting came as a blow to the Uyghur community worldwide, who recognized him as an outspoken critic of the Chinese regime.
But it hit Telendibaeva especially hard.
"I couldn't sleep that night," she said. "I was thinking of my husband and about China and how they kidnap Uyghur people everywhere."
Telendibaeva does not fear that her husband will be killed. She maintains "the shame would be too much for China."
But she fears the abuses he is suffering. "In a Chinese prison, anything is possible," she says.
Her husband's arrest has meant the 29-year-old is raising the couple's four children alone. Their youngest, six months old, has never met his father.
News of Semed's execution came just days after Telendibaeva received her first update about Celil in months.
Relatives called on Sunday to say they had seen him during a brief court appearance where he told the court he had been tortured by captors who used sleep deprivation and threats in a failed attempt to make him confess to terrorist activities. It was the family's first indication he was still alive.
The absence of any Canadian officials during Celil's court appearance, along with claims he was tortured, have increased pressure on Canadian politicians to secure access to Celil.
In parliament yesterday, Wayne Marston, MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, urged the Harper government to send an all-party delegation to China to advocate for consular access and a fair trial for Celil.
"We need to show China we are serious about protecting our citizens," said the NDP human rights critic.
Celil came to Canada as a refugee six years ago and became a citizen in 2005. Chinese officials have rejected claims he is a Canadian citizen and have denied Canadian diplomats access to him.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday his government would not be swayed by a Chinese official's recent comments that Canada's criticism of China's human rights record was hurting trade between the two countries.