Sunday, April 29, 2007

MacKay to raise Celil's case in Beijing

Last Updated: Sunday, April 29, 2007 | 8:48 AM ET

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says now is the "ideal time" for Canada and China to renew discussions on "a whole range of issues," including the case of jailed human rights activist Huseyin Celil.

MacKay, who arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a three-day visit, says he will raise Celil's case when he meets with China's new foreign minister on Monday.

Huseyin Celil is is shown with one of his children in a family photo.Huseyin Celil is is shown with one of his children in a family photo.

Celil is a Canadian who was sentenced to life in prison in China last week on a number of charges, including participating in a terrorist group.

China does not recognized Celil's Canadian citizenship, but MacKay said on Sunday that Canada "remains very committed" to him and "in particular in maintaining his Canadian citizenship."

MacKay is also expected to discuss with Chinese officials commercial ties and climate change during his visit.

On April 26, his wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, held a news conference in Ottawa to urge the government to appoint a special envoy to try to win her husband's release.

Telendibaeva has been raising the couple's four children by herself for the last year at their home in Burlington, Ont.

Celil, who is originally from China, was arrested in Uzbekistan in March 2006 while visiting his wife's relatives, and was extradited to China on terrorism charges.

Earlier this month, a Chinese court found him guilty of giving money to the founder of a terrorist organization called Hezbollah in China's Guangdong province in 1997. The founder went on to purchase arms and train terrorists, the court said.

Celil, 38, denies the charges and says there was no evidence brought against him.

He came to Canada as a refugee in 2001 and in 2005 became a Canadian citizen. He fled China after being imprisoned for his ties to the Uighur ethnic minority, a Muslim group that has long claimed repression at the hands of the Chinese government.

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