Ilham Tohti Rejects Separatism Charges

Ilham Tohti Rejects Separatism Charges

Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who has been detained since January and was formally charged with separatism last month, has disputed the allegations against him. Andrew Jacobs from the New York Times reports:

During a three-hour meeting with his lawyers, Mr. Tohti expressed indignation over the charges, describing them as “distorted,” according to the lawyers, Li Fangping and Liu Xiaoyuan, who met with him Tuesday at a detention center in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang. Mr. Tohti has been held there for nearly seven months.

“He said the charges do not align with the facts,” Mr. Liu said by telephone from Urumqi. “He said he never set up a separatist cabal.”

Last week, prosecutors formally indicted Mr. Tohti on charges that he sowed ethnic disunity through the Internet while using his position as an economics professor to incite students to violence. The charges, reportedly based on his classroom lectures and the content of a website he created, carry a minimum prison term of 10 years.

[…] In public statements and during interviews with foreign reporters, Mr. Tohti, whose research focused on unemployment and income disparity in the region, has been careful not to advocate Uighur independence. But he frequently called on the Chinese authorities to address the grievances he said were fueling mounting violence in the region. “The evidence against him is extremely feeble,” Mr. Liu said. “The current charges against him are all politically motivated.” [Source]

He has been accused of organizing students to “undermine the unity of the country.” Adrian Wan at the South China Morning Post reports:

Prosecutors have charged Tohti with an offence under Article 103, which targets ringleaders and others who organise, plot or carry out a scheme to split the state or undermine the unity of the country; Article 113 targets those who endanger national security.

Tohti has been charged with leading a group of seven other university students. Some of them were Tohti’s students, Liu said after being shown the charge sheet.

“He was in good spiritual health when we met him yesterday, although he has visibly lost a lot of weight,” he said. Another defence lawyer, Li Fangping, also attended the meeting.

The two lawyers’ were unable to obtain a full copy of the charge sheet because officials told them the relevant officers were away, Liu said. Tohti had shown them the charge sheet, and they would prepare his defence once they had received a copy, he said. [Source]

Read more about Ilham Tohti’s case, via CDT. The case against him is being played out as authorities launch a major security crackdown in Xinjiang following several violent incidents in the region.

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