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10-08-06, 11:30
China puts Canadian activist on trial after extradition from Uzbekistan(Updated 05:28 p.m.)


2006/8/10
BEIJING (AP)



A Canadian Muslim activist who was extradited from Uzbekistan to his native China in March has gone on trial on terrorism charges, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Huseyincal Celil's family was told last week that if convicted, he could face execution as early as Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project reported on Tuesday.


Jennie Chen, a Canadian Embassy spokeswoman, said Thursday, however, that her government had received assurances from China that it will not seek the death penalty for Celil.


Celil "is a Chinese citizen suspected of being involved in East Turkestan terrorist activities," said a man on duty at the Foreign Ministry's press affairs office who refused to give his name. "This case is being tried and no verdict has yet been reached."


Celil was wanted in China for his involvement in a campaign for the rights of the country's minority Muslim Uighurs. He was arrested in China and tortured, but escaped from prison in 2000 and fled to Uzbekistan and Turkey before reaching Canada, where he was given citizenship.


China's government says the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, based in the western region of Xinjiang, is waging a violent separatist campaign. Beijing also says the group has links to al-Qaida and has received arms and training from the terror network.


Diplomats and foreign experts are skeptical and say bombings and other violence linked to the group by China actually stem from personal disputes.


Celil was detained in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, in March, while visiting his wife's relatives. He was traveling on a Canadian passport when he was detained, Chen said.


The Canadian government had earlier called on Uzbekistan not to extradite Celil.