NCCM welcomes news of reduced sentence for Canadian held in China

Urges Ottawa to do more to bring Huseyin Celil home

(Ottawa – February 4, 2016) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties and advocacy organization, welcomes the news that Chinese authorities have commuted the life sentence of a Canadian citizen who has been unjustly detained since 2007.

According to human rights observers, in 2006 dual Canadian-Chinese national Huseyin Celil was captured, tried and convicted in a deeply flawed process that targeted him for advocating for the rights of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China. He was given a life sentence; however Chinese government announced this week that he would be serving 19 to 20 years instead.

« Since 2006, the NCCM has been advocating for the release of Huseyin Celil, a political prisoner. News of his commuted sentence is a hopeful sign that the Chinese government is feeling international pressure to release Mr. Celil. However, the federal government must be firm in demanding his absolute exoneration and immediate release so that he can rejoin his wife and four children in Canada where they have been without a husband and father for over eight years. No family should have to endure such heartache and uncertainty, » says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.

« As the newly-elected Liberal government reportedly seeks closer relations with Beijing, it is incumbent on it to advocate for a Canadian citizen unjustly imprisoned and to insist on the respect of human rights of all people, » adds Gardee. « Trade should not trump human rights. »

In late January, former detained journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Amnesty International released a Protection Charter, calling on Ottawa to do more to guarantee the rights of Canadians held abroad. Mr. Celil’s wife Kamila Telendibaeva and the NCCM are among the signatories to this charter.

Another Canadian who remains unjustly held overseas is Bashir Makhtal in Ethiopia.

« The government must use every tool at its disposal to advocate for the human rights of Canadians and those with close ties to this country, » adds Gardee. « Government intervention has the greatest chance of reuniting families and helping to restore people’s fundamental rights. »

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit grassroots advocacy organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.