The brother of World Uyghur Congress president Dolkun Isa has been given a life sentence by authorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) after already serving two years in jail back in 1998.
Hushtar Isa, based in Aksu, was re-detained at the beginning in 2017 while working at a driving school because he was a former prisoner, a police officer from the region told RFA.
“He was sentenced to life,” the officer told RFA on May 25.
China opened their mass internment campaign back in 2017, under which authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention camps.
The news came the same day that Chinese authorities issued a statement denying the claim that Dolkun Isa’s mother, Ayhan Memet, had died in a “re-education” camp, and claiming that their family was living peacefully.
At a news conference in April, Chinese authorities forced an Aksu-based older sister of Dolkun Isa to speak in a video, denying that their mother had passed away while in a camp.
But the authorities did not provide any information about Dolkun Isa’s older brother, Yalkun, or his younger brother, Hushtar, about whom he had received no information during the past four years.
A person claiming to be familiar with the situation in Aksu said last week that Yalkun and Hushtar had been given long prison sentences, and that the authorities had not disclosed the information in their recent news conference.
A staff member in the appeals department of the Aksu Prefectural Procuratorate said he could not give RFA any information about the brothers.
After Hushtar Isa graduated from Xi’an Jiaotong Gonglu University in 1996, he had difficulty finding a job because of the “political problems” of Dolkun, according to the source with knowledge of the situation.
While searching for a job, his alleged “crimes” came to light, and he was sentenced to two years in prison in 1998.
Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa was a student leader of pro-democracy demonstrations at Xinjiang University in Ürümqi, capital of the autonomous region, in 1988.
Persecution by the Chinese government prompted him to flee China in 1994 and seek asylum in Germany where he helped establish the World Uyghur Youth Congress and served as its executive chairman and president. He also played a role in the establishment of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in April 2004.
HabibullaIzchi, a close friend of the family who now lives in Switzerland, said that after Hushtar was released from prison, he went into business with a friend and opened a restaurant called Ardabil.
But Hushtar was forced to give up his share of the business after discovering that police were constantly coming in and out of the restaurant to monitor it, he said.
Hushtar then worked as an instructor at the Xinyun or Jilong driving schools, an employee from the Hong Qi driving school in Aksu told RFA, but she added that the man disappeared from public life several years ago.
Although he has never met Hushtar in person, HabibullaIzchi said Hushtar likely received a heavy sentence because had a reputation as a promising Uyghur intellectual and social organizer, making him a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities.
“Whether in Xi’an, Urumqi, or Aksu, wherever he went, he was essentially an active guy who was concerned with the future of our homeland and people,” he said. “Some of the things he did were very similar to the work of Dolkun Isa.”
The U.S. State Department — as well as parliaments in Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, and Lithuania — have described China’s actions in the XUAR as “genocide,” while the New York-based group Human Rights Watch says they constitute crimes against humanity.
The Italian parliament voted unanimously last week to condemn Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples. (Source: RFA)