Concerns Over Alleged Secret Trial of Ilham Tohti

The Guardian reports on concerns over the alleged secret trial and sentencing of Uyghur scholar and activist Ilham Tohti. A Bejing-based economist and moderate though vocal critic of Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region, Ilham Tohti has been in detention since January under separatism charges:

Li Fangping [the lawyer hired by Ilham Tohti’s family] said via his microblog that he had heard that a secret hearing had taken place but could not yet confirm it. He told the Guardian that two separate sources had informed him where the case took place and how many years Tohti was given, adding that the sentence was “heavy”. He declined to give any further details.

[…] The offence of separatism can carry the death penalty in “particularly vile” circumstances, while inciting it can mean jail for up to 15 years.

Tohti is not believed to have seen Li since his detention in Beijing by more than 30 police officers. He is believed to have been transferred to Xinjiang shortly after his arrest.

[…] “Under the law, a lawyer is supposed to be notified of a trial three days beforehand, regardless of whether it is open to the public or not,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, an independent human rights law scholar in Hong Kong.

[…] Maya Wang, of Human Rights Watch, said that if Tohti had been tried and sentenced in secret it was “very, very disturbing”. Even if a trial was yet to occur, she noted, the denial of access to the lawyer hired by his family was of grave concern. […] [Source]

Allegations of Ilham Tohti’s secret trial comes amid a nationwide central government security crackdown after a series of recent attacks attributed to “Xinjiang separatists” in both Xinjiang and greater China. Authorities have described the crackdown as “ultra-tough and unconventional,” and declared Xinjiang its “main battlefield.” So far, the campaign has seen a number of executions, hundreds of detentions and several mass sentencing rallies in the restive western region. Yesterday, an Urumqi court handed three death sentences and five prison sentences to the alleged planners of the October jeep crash near Tianamen Gate in Beijing—an incident that Ilham Tohti prominently questioned the official account of. Also yesterday, state media reported 13 new executions in Xinjiang, some of which related to the deadly riots in Lukqun one year ago.