BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday confirmed that an ethnic Uighur schoolteacher faces terror charges after being extradited from Kazakhstan where he had won refugee status.
Human rights advocates criticised Kazakhstan’s decision to deport Ershidin Israil, saying he could suffer harsh treatment and even torture in China, which says its far west Xinjiang region faces threats from militants seeking independence for the heavily Muslim Uighur minority.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that Israil was now in Chinese custody.
“The person in question has been wanted by Chinese police as major terror suspect, and was also a target of a red-alert wanted notice from Interpol,” Hong told a news conference.
“I understanding that this person has been extradited back to China, and now the case is being tried according to the law.”
Hong did not say what specific accusations Israil faces.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has been visiting Kazakhstan and Beijing has sealed a currency swap deal worth $1 billion with its Central Asian neighbour and agreed to a $1.5 billion loan to a copper miner, highlighting China’s growing economic pull in the region.
Israil, who holds a Chinese passport, was arrested in Kazakhstan’s financial capital Almaty on June 24 last year on terrorism charges, following a request from Interpol, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said last week.
The exiled World Uighur Congress said Israil fled Xinjiang in 2009 after providing information to Radio Free Asia about the death of another Uighur man.
The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur people are native to Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of Central Asia. Many of Xinjiang’s 8 million Uighurs resent the growing presence and economic grip of the majority Han Chinese.
In 2009, Uighurs rioted against Han Chinese residents in Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, killing at least 197 people, mostly Han.
Israil had applied for refugee status in Kazakhstan in June 2010. At the time, he held a refugee mandate issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But after studying Israil’s case, the UNHCR annulled on May 3 its refugee mandate issued to Israil, a Kazakh official said.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley)