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05-04-06, 14:38
TORONTO (AP) _ Canadian officials said Tuesday that a Canadian citizen has been detained in Uzbekistan, and a family friend of the man said he fears the political dissident will be handed over to his native China and tortured.

Huseyincan Celil has been held since March 26 in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, said Seyit Aydogan.

``Uzbekistan intends to repatriate him to China where he will face a definite execution because of his past political activities,'' Aydogan told The Canadian Press. ``Celil holds only a Canadian passport. He denounced his Chinese citizenship.''

He did not say how he knew that Uzbek authorities plan to extradite Celil. It was not immediately clear why he was detained and officials in Tashkent were not available for comment.

But Aydogan said Celil was a political activist fighting for the rights of dominant ethnic Uighurs in western China's Xinjiang region and was arrested and tortured there. Celil escaped from prison and fled to Uzbekistan and Turkey, before arriving in Canada as a refugee.

Chinese authorities have long maintained that militants among the Uighurs _ Turkic-speaking Muslims _ are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in the region and are seeking to set up an independent state of ``East Turkistan.'' The separatist movement gained momentum following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the establishment of several independent and largely Muslim nations in the neighboring region.
Canadian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Kim Girtel confirmed Tuesday that a Canadian citizen is being detained in Uzbekistan, but declined to identify the individual citing privacy regulations.

``We are in touch with the next-of-kin and we are providing consular assistance,'' said Girtel.

Celil's wife and three children, all Canadian citizens who have lived in Hamilton, Ontario, since 2002, were in Tashkent when he was taken and remain there with relatives, awaiting news of his condition and whereabouts, said Aydogan.

``They can come back, but she wants her husband,'' he said, adding that Celil became a Canadian citizen ``three or four months ago.''
The family has not had any contact with Celil during his detention, Aydogan said.

Uzbekistan's government is seen as one of the most repressive in the former Soviet Union and is a close ally of Beijing. Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who has ruled the ex-Soviet republic with an iron fist since 1989, has drawn international condemnation for cracking down on political foes and dissident Muslims, thousands of whom have been jailed.