A Uyghur journalist working for an official Chinese radio service has been sentenced to life in prison following a secret trial conducted earlier this year, according to a letter sent by a friend to Radio Free Asia.
Memetjan Abdulla, an editor for the Uyghur service of China National Radio, was sentenced in April in a closed trial in Urumqi, capital of China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the letter said.
Authorities had charged Abdulla with helping to instigate deadly ethnic rioting in Urumqi in July 2009 following Uyghur protests at the beating deaths of Uyghur factory workers in the eastern Chinese city of Shaoguan.
Abdulla had translated a call issued by the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress for Uyghurs in exile to protest, in their hosting countries, the Shaoguan deaths.
The call had appeared on a Chinese website, and Abdulla had then translated the call into Uyghur and reposted it on the Uyghur website Salkin, authorities said.
The July 5 violence, which according to eyewitnesses followed initially peaceful Uyghur protests, left some 200 ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese dead, according to Chinese government count.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a man who was present at Abdulla’s trial said that official anger at Abdulla had resulted in the severity of his sentence, according to the letter received by RFA.
“Memetjan answered the questions of foreign journalists in Beijing about Uyghur reactions to the June 26 Shaoguan incident,” the man said. “Plus, he translated many sensitive articles that were published on the Salkin website.”
Sentenced at the same time as Abdulla was Gulmire Imin, also accused of instigating the riots, according to the letter sent to RFA.
China National Radio personnel, reached for comment, avoided reporters’ questions and referred enquiries to other employees.
Meanwhile, an officer of the Urumqi Intermediate Court, said, “You should send us a request by letter with an official seal on it, and we can then help you search the archives.”
Another court staff member said, “I don’t know about his case. You should ask someone else.”
Memetjan Abdulla was born in 1977 and grew up in Karamay City in Xinjiang, his friend said in the letter sent to RFA.
He graduated in 2001 from the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, now the Communication University of China, and worked for eight years as a broadcaster and editor at the Uyghur service of China National Radio.
In his free time, the letter said, Abdulla worked as a manager for the Uyghur-language Salkin website.
He was arrested two months after the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, according to the letter sent to RFA.
Tensions between the mainly-Muslim Uyghurs of Xinjiang and China’s dominant ethnic Han have been growing in recent years. Millions of Han have moved to the region in recent decades.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China’s ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Richard Finney.