Uyghur political prisoner executed in Urumchi
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has learned that Uyghur political prisoner Ismail Semed was executed on the morning of February 8 in Urumchi, the provincial capital of East Turkistan (also known as Xinjiang Province) in northwest China. Semed, who was 37 years old at the time of his execution, was sentenced to death in October 2005 on charges of “attempting to split the motherland” and other charges relating to the alleged possession of firearms and explosives. He was known to have been politically active in support of Uyghurs’ human rights.
Semed was deported from Pakistan to the PRC in 2003. PRC authorities accused him of having been a founding member of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group that was listed as a terrorist organization by both the United States and United Nations in 2002 after intensive lobbying on the part of the PRC government. This accusation, which apparently led to the “splittism” charge, appears to have been based solely on second-hand testimony that Semed was present at a meeting of ETIM in March 1997 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A Radio Free Asia report stated that people who attended the meeting in Rawalpindi did not even know Ismail Semed.
According to Semed’s sentencing document, which was seen by UHRP, the only evidence with regard to the charges of firearms possession is the testimony of several other Uyghurs, two of whom were executed by the Chinese government in 1999. UHRP believes it likely that the testimonies of these Uyghurs were obtained through torture, and that Semed’s documented “confession” to the charges against him was also likely extracted through torture.
“Ismail Semed was executed after having been convicted on evidence, or a lack thereof, that should have been laughed out of any fair court,” said Uyghur American Association President Rebiya Kadeer. “Even Ismail Semed’s court-appointed lawyers told the judge presiding over his case that the evidence presented was not adequate enough to convict him. Unfortunately, he was not tried in a fair court.”
Semed’s body was escorted by Chinese military personnel to a burial ground in Urumchi, where his family members were waiting. The day before his execution, Semed’s wife and two young children, aged 6 and 7 years, were allowed to visit him to say their goodbyes. He told them that he had been tortured in prison, and that he was innocent of the charges against him. He informed them that he had been studying law in Pakistan at the time he was detained and extradited by Pakistani authorities.
Semed reportedly served two prison terms for participating in demonstrations in East Turkistan. He fled to Pakistan in February 1997 following a peaceful demonstration in Ghulja (Ch: Yining) that was brutally broken up by Chinese security forces, resulting in hundreds, and possibly thousands, of deaths and injuries.
As the SCO marks a decade of existence, China has been putting pressure on neighboring countries, and particularly members of the SCO, to forcibly return Uyghurs suspected of “separatist” activities, including asylum-seekers and refugees. A number of Uyghur returnees have reportedly been subjected to serious human rights violations, including torture, unfair trials and even executions.
China’s influence within the SCO with regard to the Uyghur people appears to be extending to nations with “observer” status as well. Pakistan’s current “observer” status with the SCO, as well as the 2003 remarks of President Musharraf that he would not allow anyone to use Pakistani territory to “carry out anti-China activities”, raises concerns that Pakistan is willing to persecute innocent Uyghurs, or send them back to East Turkistan, in order to please China.
Executions are often carried out in significantly greater numbers in the PRC on the eve of the lunar New Year, which falls in mid-February this year. The PRC continues to carry out more executions than the rest of the world combined, with National People’s Congress delegate Chen Zhonglin stating in 2004 stating that the PRC carries out nearly 10,000 executions each year. In addition, East Turkistan, almost without exception, is the only region in China where people have been executed for political crimes in recent years.