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China jails Uighur journalist for 15 years

Gheyret Niyaz was reportedly tried and convicted on state security charges by a court in Xinjiang on Friday. According to reports, prosecutors relied on essays he had written prior to the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and interviews he gave to Hong Kong media after the violence.

A Chinese court in the restive western region of Xinjiang has given a Uighur journalist and website manager 15 years in jail for endangering state security by speaking to foreign journalists, his employer said on Friday. Uighurbiz.net, where Gheyret Niyaz worked as an administrator, posted a notice saying he had been sentenced at a hearing on Friday, quoting his wife who was in the court.

"Gheyret Niyaz admitted in court that he accepted interviews from foreign media, but insisted that he had no malicious intentions and was only doing what a citizen, or reporter, should do," his wife Reshalaiti was quoted as saying.

Niyaz has a right to appeal under Chinese law, the statement added, without saying whether he would exercise that right. The Xinjiang government declined comment when contacted by telephone from Beijing. Gheyret Niyaz was one of a number of Uighur journalists, webmasters and bloggers detained after ethnic unrest in energy-rich Xinjiang in July 2009, according to the Uyghur American Association.

The sentence is unusually long for someone who has a low international profile and apparently did not face charges of separatism or violent extremism. China says it faces a threat from radical groups fighting for Xinjiang independence.

"Fifteen years imprisonment is an outrageous punishment for journalism that highlighted the longstanding grievances of the Uighur people," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific Programme. "Adding to this outrage is the fact that Niyaz, in his words as an 'ordinary person of conscience', had urged the authorities to take emergency measures to prevent ethnic violence."

Date posted: July 24, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 3784