Imprisoned Canadian Huseyin Celil was to have another chance to try to secure his freedom today, as his lawyer argued before a Chinese court for a reversal of his life sentence.
Mr. Celil, who escaped from China and eventually found refuge in Canada several years ago, was sentenced by a Chinese court in April to life imprisonment on a number of terrorism-related charges. Despite repeated protests from Ottawa, Beijing has refused to recognize Mr. Celil's Canadian citizenship, and denied him access to Canadian consular officials.
Early this morning, Mr. Celil's Chinese lawyer attended court in Urumqi, a city in northwest China where Mr. Celil's first trial took place, to begin an appeal process. According to Mehmet Tohti, head of the Uyghur Canadian Association, Mr. Celil's lawyer planned to present proof of his Canadian citizenship. Mr. Celil's mother, sister and eldest son also were to attend the hearing, Mr. Tohti said.
The court date was set for about midnight EST, and the results of the court process were not known by deadline.
The Canadian government is aware that Mr. Celil's appeal is under review, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Bernard Nguyen said, adding that a Canadian embassy official is in Urumqi to monitor the proceedings.
Mr. Celil is a member of the Uyghur people, a Muslim minority in northwest China. The Uyghurs' repeated demands for independence have long drawn the ire of Beijing, which has clamped down even more forcefully on the minority group in recent years.
Mr. Celil was visiting his wife's relatives in Uzbekistan when he was detained by authorities there in March of last year.
Under an agreement between the two countries, Uzbekistan sent Mr. Celil to China, where he was eventually tried and convicted.