I’ve been tardy with posting on the case of Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur-Canadian man recently convicted to life in prison in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Considering I used to live and blog in Urumqi, I feel like I’ve been remiss.
Background: According to the Globe and Mail (courtesy Opposite End), Huseyin was an imam at a small mosque in Kashgar who chafed at government restrictions (e.g. no call to prayer using a loudspeaker) in the 1990s, when the government ratched up the “Strike Hard” campaign on separatist activity. He was harassed by the police and spent time in jail, then fled on a fake passport to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1996. In 1998, the Kyrgyz arrested and jailed him for ““creating hatred among the people,” a charge related to his religious sermons.” After release, he fled to Uzbekistan, then Turkey via Syria, marrying an Uzbek girl on the way. When he received Canadian asylum in 2001, it was the first legit passport he’d ever had. Somewhere between 1999 and 2001, he allegedly returned to Bishkek and murdered a man, which his lawyer says ““It’s just not realistic for this guy to have done that,” said Chris MacLeod. “He would have forsaken his UNHCR status, left his disabled kid and wife, forged documents, made it there and back — it’s just not doable.”” In 2006, he and his family left Hamilton, Ontario, to visit his wife’s sick mother in Uzbekistan. That’s when the Uzbek police picked him up, saying he was listed on the “Interpol National Central Bureau in Uzbekistan” wanted list. They never saw him again, or even heard about him until the Chinese government told their version of the Story of Celil…
According to the court documents, Celil joined the East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO), a listed terrorist group active in central Asia, in November 1997 and was appointed as a senior instructor in Kyrgyzstan.
While there, Celil allegedly recruited several people to the ETLO and sent them to terrorist training camps in the Pakistan-controled Kashmir, the documents said.
Celil was also active in another listed terrorist organization, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), for which he helped raise funds, recruit members and organize training, the documents said.
The documents said that in 1997, Celil met ETIM’s former head Hasan Mahsum, who was shot dead by the Pakistan army in 2003, and worked directly under Mahsum’s command.
Celil was a key member pushing for the alliance of the ETIM and ETLO in 1998, the documents said.
The government said “East Turkistan” terrorists had close links with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and were responsible for a series of murder, bombs, hijacking and arson in Xinjiang.
The documents said Huseyin Celil, with the intention of overthrowing the people’s republic and the socialist system, in 1997 provided 80,000 yuan (US$10,256) for the establishment of a new terrorist group, named “Hizbollah”, in the southern Guangdong Province.
The money was used for to purchase guns and provide terrorist training, the documents said.
Wait… back up, what was that?
the establishment of a new terrorist group, named “Hizbollah”, in the southern Guangdong Province.
Hizbollah? Let’s see, here’s a Chinese version of the same thing (more or less)… ah, here it is: 真主党. That is “Hizbollah”… which means Party of Allah, which is awfully generic. There was once a similarly named group (“东突伊斯兰真主党”), allegedly, involved in the Yining Riots of 1997. But in Guangdong??? Considering the Chinese government still hasn’t proven most of their previous assertions about Uyghur terrorism, this comes off as jumping the shark. And it’s just so… convenient that Celil is the missing link between the ETIM and ETLO, both not seen in years. Just a little too convenient if you ask me.
So the Chinese and Canadian governments aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye on this. The poor Canadians. As John Kennedy has pointed out at Global Voices Online, they’re already getting flack for this on the bulletin boards. But consider this: lately, Canadian citizens just ain’t getting their back covered abroad. The US sends Maher Arer off to Syria for torture and bans a psychotherapist for writing about LSD use – now this? I suggest American backpackers reconsider having a Canadian flag stitched to their bag. It could backfire.
Anyway, one Chinese commenter said: “The Canadian Prime Minister says his government “believes” there to be no evidence proving the accused’s guilt, so it seems this makes everything they say and do excusable. What a joke! Since you haven’t seen the evidence, what exactly are you “believing”?”
And so true! There hasn’t been any evidence shown to the public, or the Canadian Prime Minister either. But that hasn’t stopped the Times of India or the Counterterrorism Blog from taking advantage of the situation:
BEIJING: In a major blow to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism credentials, China has for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of terrorist camps within the territory of its “all-weather” ally.
What? You mean it doesn’t count when in 2004 Xinhua, as reprinted on the webpage of the PRC Permanent Mission to the UN Geneva, said that East Turkestan terrorists had crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan to establish bases the Pakistanis couldn’t find? In which they also were concerned about them sneaking into, ahem, India as well based on a – wait a minute – Times of India story claiming Uyghur terrorist camps were identified in Pakistan?
I think I have your number, Times of India.
The damning confirmation came in a court document in the trial of 37-year-old Huseyin Celil, a China-born Uygur-Canadian, who was today sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chinese court in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, for “taking part in terrorist activities and plotting to split the country.”
Oh, I see: China confirmed (not in anyway aimed at Pakistan) that they had some evidence that no one else gets to see? I still haven’t seen photos or identities of the 17 terrorists allegedly captured in that raid back in January, though I have read that President Musharraf gave a speech in 2004 about killing an alleged Uyghur terrorist leader in Pakistan (does that count as “confirmation”?), but let’s not let that stand in the way of a breathless, inaccurate article slamming the Pakistanis.
Speaking of taking advantage of the situation to plug your own thing, there’s also the Huseyin Celil homepage. I dunno if this guy is innocent or not (he’s certainly, at least, not proven guilty to anyone except Chinese authorities), but I don’t think getting your photos of torture from the FLG is the best PR move. First, the Chinese government is going to think you’ve joined a massive conspiracy, which I don’t think will move them to the negotiating table quicker. Second, FLG allegations have not been substantiated by anyone except attorney David Matas, whose investigative techniques appeared to be asking FLG members if they phoned real doctors in China who admitted to harvesting FLG organs, the members said “yes”, and Matas turned around and said “the evidence is overwhelming!”. (I blogged about this on the old blog, it’s gone now) Third, it’s hard to take seriously a group that claims millions have resigned the CCP through a website they maintain where I can type in “Steven Seagal” and VOILA, Steven Seagal has resigned from the CCP. So consider some new friends, poor Mrs. Celil.
The other thing is the translation of Celil’s testimony at his murder trial in Bishkek. Is this really what you want for the defense?
Eastern Turkistan has a role of defensive city wall and bastion between China and the Central Asian Republics, and this could limit the Chinese invaders to spread to the Central Asia. But now, since there is no such a wall to push back the Chinese, the Chinese invaders have been expanding towards the Central Asia very fast!
The Yellow Peril defense! Excellent!
Today, considering our interrogation like an enemy as the Kyrgyzstan state seem to benefit as political factors and diplomacy may seem to be reasonable in respect to its relations to China. It is not controversial that China is providing with some little benefits today. But, have our brothers thought of tomorrow? How far can they understand the Communist China? How much do they understand about the threatening national psychology of the Chinese? With this opportunity, we caution our brothers to be deeply aware of Chinese Evil.
Evil with a capital E! And, well, there’s more of that. Most Chinese citizens won’t have alot of sympathy for this sort of thing, though I can tell you there are plenty of Uyghurs who feel this way but don’t go around starting Guangdong Hezbollahs. But this just seems counterproductive. Oh, and the whole thing about “I made a videocassette about Jihad but I didn’t give it to anybody” argument he gives? Won’t play well in Peoria.