Uyghur family jailed in Xinjiang for links with Turkey-based academic


An Ankara-based Uyghur academic has learned that four of his siblings and a brother-in-law were jailed by Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) with “aiding and abetting terrorists” charges for sending him gifts.

Erkin Amet, a lecturer at Ankara University and a freelance journalist, has learned from the Kashgar District Intermediate People’s Court that three of his brothers were sentenced for 11 years each, his sister received 14 years, and her husband was jailed for 23 years.

Amet, a 30-year-resident and citizen of Turkey, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that he learned of the January 2019 indictment of the five relatives when he was sent an electronic copy of the court document by an acquaintance in China last month.

In the indictment, Chinese authorities accused Erkin Amet of being a “terrorist” and said they had arrested his siblings and brother-in-law on charges of “aiding and abetting terrorists” and “keeping contact with a member of a terrorist organization, Erkin Amet, between 2006 and 2016,” he said.

The indictment described gifts his brothers gave to Erkin Amet and his wife – gold rings and household items worth about US$2,500 – as “aid for terrorist activities.”

He said the criminal charges for the family’s exchange of gifts are “typical example of the current policy of evil repression against the Uyghurs.”

The terrorist accusation in the indictment did not specify a terrorist organization or a terrorist act.

Overall, he learned that 13 of his relatives were imprisoned in the XUAR internment camps in which China has locked up as many as 1.8 million for what it says is re-education to combat Muslim extremism.

Critics call them concentration camps that merit an investigation into genocide and the United States has sanctioned the architect of the camp system.

Erkin Amet’s younger sister, Nurnisa Amet, visited Turkey in January 2013 with the permission of the Chinese government with her husband, Kadir Memet, and they stayed only three days at her brother’s house – a stay described in the indictment as “liaising with terrorists,” the scholar said.

Erkin Amet – a lecturer since 1992 at the state-run Ankara University’s Department of Language, History and Geography – has been a correspondent and contributor to RFA’s Uyghur Service from Turkey, and managed RFA’s office in the Turkish capital from 2001-12.

Local media in Turkey, home to more than 50,000 Uyghurs who fled there to escape persecution in China, have speculated that the main reason for Erkin Amet’s “terrorism” accusations is related to his work for RFA and his decade-long relationship with the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress advocacy group.

Erkin Amet wrote letters to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department to seek help with his family’s case.

RFA previously has reported that a blacklist of 17 people from Kashgar’s Yopurgha county who went abroad is circulating on social media, and at the top of the list of “terrorists” is Erkin Amet, a native of the county.

China has imprisoned numerous Uyghurs for having visited Turkey and other Muslim countries, or for having relatives living in those countries. Chinese authorities have also jailed dozens of relatives of RFA Uyghur reporters in retaliation for their work. (Source: RFA)