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Uyghur journalist and website editor sentenced to 15 years in jail for criticising China

Posted by Author on July 24, 2010

Reporters Without Borders, July 24, 2010-

Reporters Without Borders said it was outraged at the harshness of a 15-year prison sentence handed down today to journalist Gheyret Niyaz by a court in Urumqi, in Xinjiang province.

He was arrested in October 2009 following ethnic unrest in Xinjiang in July 2009 and found guilty of “threatening national security” after criticising Chinese official policy towards the Uyghurs, sending news about the riots to foreign journalists and contributing to a website accused of inciting violence.

“We are utterly astonished at the outcome of this trial,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Gheyret Niyaz did indeed make some criticism of Chinese policy in his region, but he is neither a criminal nor a dissident. He is seen by Uyghurs based abroad as supporting China’s administration of Xinjiang and even shares some of the Chinese government’s views of the summer 2009 unrest.

“In giving him such a heavy sentence and imprisoning other journalists and netizens whose sole crime is to have spoken about these events, the Chinese authorities are not encouraging a negotiated solution. On the contrary, this shocking sentence shows that the authorities put control of news above the reconciliation process. Prisoners of opinion should be released and the verdict against Gheyret Niyaz quashed on appeal”, the organisation added.

Niyaz gave an interview to Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan (www.yzzk.com), in July 2009 in which he supported the official version of events that implicated external agents in the rioting, saying that the Islamic Liberation Party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir al Islami, was behind them. He also claimed to have warned the authorities that things were getting out of hand. In the same article he raised the issue of economic inequalities in Xinjiang, as well as some aspects of the struggle against “separatism”.

He also contributed to the website Uighurbiz.cn, a bilingual forum on Uyghur life and culture that the government accused of inciting violence by posting news about clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in another region of the country……. (more details from Reporters Without Borders)

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