The National Council of Canadian Muslims is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise, with China, the case of imprisoned Canadian Huseyin Celil, a Uighur human rights activist.
“We are asking you, Prime Minister, to clearly and publicly raise the case of Huseyin Celil in any or all conversations about our engagement with China, in the same way that you rightly raised the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Mr. Celil is a Canadian citizen and we must push for his immediate release,” wrote Siham Rayale, Director of Foreign Affairs of NCCM (National Council of Canadian Muslims) in a letter to the Prime Minister. “Canada has been rightly vocal in pushing for the arbitrary detention of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor to end. No Canadian should fear for their safety while living and working abroad.”
“The Canadian government needs to prioritize the release of Mr. Celil in the same way we rightly prioritized Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. This means that the Prime Minister must, at minimum, be publicly clear in all discussions about Canada-China relations that Mr. Celil must be released,” added Rayale.
Huseyin Celil is a Canadian citizen and a Uighur human rights activist from China who promoted the rights of China’s Uighur minority. In 2001, he fled China after being in jail for supporting the religious and political rights of the Uighur people. The United Nations recognized him as a refugee.
Huseyin Celil arrived in Canada with his wife Kamila Telendibaeva and their child in October of 2001. After they settled, two more boys were born and Huseyin became a Canadian citizen.
In March 2006, when Kamila was pregnant with their fourth child, the family travelled to Uzbekistan to visit her family. That’s when things started to go wrong. The police in China found out that Huseyin was in Uzbekistan, and asked the Uzbek police to arrest Huseyin. They did, and then sent him to China.
The Chinese authorities accused Huseyin of offences related to his activities in support of Uighur rights. They held Huseyin in a secret place. He was not given access to a lawyer, his family, or Canadian officials. The Chinese authorities threatened him and forced him to sign a confession. They refused to recognize Huseyin’s status as a Canadian citizen, and they did not allow Canadian officials to attend his trial. It was not conducted fairly, and he was sentenced to life in prison in China, where he remains today.
Celil’s wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, said she was happy to see Spavor and Kovrig freed but expressed disappointment with the Liberal government’s action.
However, she said that she hasn’t heard much recently from Canadian officials about the state of her husband’s case.
“They should sit at the table with (Chinese President) Xi Jinping or any Chinese authority, or a special envoy to bring him back,” Telendibaeva said in an interview.
“I’m not saying what kind of deal they’re going to do for my husband’s case, but they have to bring Huseyin back now.”
NCCM is calling on the Canadian government to:
- Appoint a Special Envoy to investigate Human Rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province directed at the Uyghur population and to advocate for Huseyin Celil’s freedom
- Impose Magnitsky sanctions on China’s worst human rights offenders
- Ban imports that have been produced stemming from Uyghur labour camps
- Act against domestic intimidation by China state-agents of Canadian-Uyghur Muslims living in Canada.