View Full Version : Chorus of voices plead with government to help free Canadian jailed in China

10-08-06, 09:02
Chorus of voices plead with government to help free Canadian jailed in China

Wed Aug 9, 8:40 PM

By Allison Jones

TORONTO (CP) - The wife of a Canadian detained in China made another desperate plea Wednesday for the federal government to help free her husband.

"I pray, I hope that the Canadian government can bring my husband back as soon as possible," the soft-spoken Kamila Telendibaeva, who is due to give birth to the couple's fourth child any day now, said from her home in Burlington, Ont., west of Toronto. "We miss him so much."

Human rights organizations, religious groups and opposition MPs are lending their voices to Telendibaeva's cause, pressuring the government to do more to help Huseyincan Celil.

Celil fled China in the mid-1990s and made his way to Canada, gaining refugee status. His lawyer said he is a Canadian citizen and has never held a Chinese passport because the ethnic minority Celil belongs to is denied that right.

While Celil was visiting his wife's family in Uzbekistan in March he was arrested on a Chinese extradition warrant. He had been sentenced in absentia to death for founding a political party.

In June, he was extradited to China, where he may face the death penalty for participating in "terrorist" activities.

His lawyer said those "terrorist" activities are speaking out in favour of rights for the minority Uighur population.

There are conflicting reports over Celil's fate. Some reports say a Chinese court sentenced him to death in absentia for his alleged role in an anti-government movement.

Foreign Affairs said Chinese authorities maintain they won't seek the death penalty.

Other reports still say Celil's trial isn't even over, which is causing confusion for his lawyer.

"Isn't over?" Chris MacLeod said from his office in Hamilton. "It never started."

MacLeod said he doesn't think his client will be executed Thursday, as was suggested an earlier unconfirmed report, saying he is resting hope on the Chinese government's denial.

"Maybe Aug. 10 there was to be a verdict from his trial?" MacLeod said.

"Was his trial to begin? Is China seeking an order of execution from a judge? We don't know any of it."

While MacLeod acknowledged the government has acted, he said it is clearly not sufficient because Celil is still in jail. He suggested the prime minister become personally involved.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay raised the issue with China's foreign minister at a meeting last month.

Amnesty International is urging the government to increase its efforts, citing fears Celil is being tortured.

NDP human rights critic Wayne Marston said the government should raise Celil's case at the United Nations, and added Canada has been "tepid at best" in protecting the interests of Canadian citizens abroad.

Ambra Dickie, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said Canada has formally requested information on Celil's exact whereabouts and immediate consular access.

"We continue our efforts to confirm Mr. Celil's well-being and to ensure that he is afforded due process, and that his rights are protected," she said.

In the meantime, his wife doesn't know what to tell their three sons, aged seven, three and one-a-half.

"They are asking, 'Where's daddy?' all the time, every day," Telendibaeva said.