Chinese authorities are said to be detaining an ethnic Uyghur whose Kazakh visa had lapsed.
Chinese paramilitary police trucks drive through downtown Urumqi, July 9, 2009.
HONG KONG—A man detained in connection with the leaking of information to international news media about the death in custody of a fellow Uyghur in northwest China has been missing for eight months, according to his wife, who now lives in Kazakhstan.
Enver Israil, 33, was detained last year on Oct. 1 along with around 20 other men in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) by authorities who were unable to locate his elder brother, Ershidin Israil.
Police were searching for Ershidin Israil, 38, for allegedly releasing details of the beating death of Shohret Tursun, whom Uyghur police had detained on suspicion of participating in deadly ethnic riots in the capital Urumqi in July 2009.
Enver Israil’s wife Asiye Kerimova is a native of Kazakhstan, whose border lies near the Israil family home in Ghulja, in Qorghas [in Chinese, Huocheng] county, Ili prefecture.
“As you know, political prisoners in China don’t have the right to hire lawyers or to meet their family. I’m getting this information through businessmen who travel to Kazakhstan,” she said.
Asiye said that she often seeks out businessmen who travel between Qorghas and Kazakhstan to ask about her husband.
Some are willing to speak about his situation but others, she said, fear retribution by Chinese authorities.
“I was told his physical condition is OK, but he has started to suffer psychologically. I was told he says from morning until night, ‘I miss my children and I need to see them,’ but I don’t know how true these claims are. I just don’t know.”
Kerimova and Enver Israil married in September 2006 and have two daughters, aged one and 2-1/2.
“The youngest daughter’s first word was ‘dadam’ [‘father’] and the older daughter carries her father’s picture all the time. She asks about him and cries.”
‘Don’t worry about me’
Kerimova said she and her husband had been living in Almaty, but that after traveling to Qorghas for her father-in-law’s funeral in June 2009, Enver Israil had been refused reentry to Kazakhstan because his visa had expired.
“During that time, my brother-in-law Ershidin had problems with the authorities. Then my husband and his brother were detained,” Asiye said, referring to Enver and Ershidin’s older brother Ghene Israil.
On Sept. 30, Enver Israil telephoned his wife and spoke of troubles affecting his family.
He said his brother Ershidin had disappeared and that police were trying to find him.
In a phone call the next day, Enver told Asiye “Goodbye. Don’t worry about me. Take good care of the kids.”
Moments later, the telephone went dead and Kerimova said she has not spoken with her husband since.
According to a Uyghur businessman, who asked not to be named, authorities rounded up Ershidin Israil’s closest friends in the raid, including Abdusalam Nasir, Ablet Abdurishit, Abdukerin Dihan, and Perhat, in addition to Enver and Ghene Isaril.
While most of the detained men were eventually released, Enver Israil and Abdusalam Nasir remain in custody, the businessman said.
“We are assuming that if Ershidin is found, Enver and Abdusalam’s case would be dealt with,” Asiye said.
A duty officer who answered the phone at the Qorghas Public Security Bureau said he didn’t know about the detention of Enver Israil and Abdusalam Nasir.
“I am not clear on that,” the officer said.
The officer also said that he was unaware of an ongoing manhunt for Ershidin Israil.
‘An influential figure’
Kerimova said she and her husband had planned to stay in Almaty and that Enver Israil was in the process of applying for Kazakh citizenship before he was detained.
She said that she had spoken with authorities in Kazakhstan for assistance in tracking down the whereabouts of Enver, but that they had been unable to help.
“I spoke with the relevant offices. They said, ‘If your husband was a Kazakh citizen, we could help, but he is a Chinese citizen so we cannot do anything. We’re sorry.’”
While Kerimova said her life has been in upheaval since her husband was detained, she doesn’t harbor any resentment toward her brother-in-law Ershidin for speaking out about Shohret Tursun’s death in detention.
“Never. He is one of the most educated and influential figures in that household. I don’t understand politics and I don’t know what it is to ‘leak state secrets,’ but what I know is that my brother-in-law was a man with a conscience,” she said.
Kerimova said Ershidin had previously been sentenced in 1999 to six years in jail for “separatism” and was released when his term was fulfilled.
He had become a successful businessman upon his release and had taught her and Enver Israil how to run their own business.
Death in detention
Shohret Tursun was among some 40 men from Qorghas detained around the time of deadly protests July 5 in the regional capital, Urumqi, villagers said.
The protests by Uyghurs, a largely Muslim Turkic people, followed alleged official mishandling of earlier ethnic clashes in far-away Guangdong province.
The July 5 protest sparked days of deadly rioting in Urumqi, pitting Uyghurs against majority Han Chinese and ending with a death toll of almost 200, by the government’s tally.
Tursun was detained July 6 in Urumqi. He was transferred to Ili on July 18 and eventually to the Kosherik jail in Qorghas on July 23, his father said.
Tursun’s badly bruised and disfigured body was released to his relatives Sept. 19, 2009—prompting a standoff between authorities who wanted him buried immediately and family members who refused and demanded an inquiry into whether he had been beaten to death.
Abdusalam Nasir helped wash Tursun’s body before the burial, which authorities forced the family to hold the following day.
Police detained Haji Memet, 35, and Abdusalam Nasir, early Sept. 23 in Lengger [in Chinese, Langan] village, Qorghas county, according to two witnesses.
Both Memet and Nasir were arrested on Jan. 25, 1997, on charges of “splittism.” They served eight and six years in jail, respectively.
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.
Xinjiang is a strategically crucial vast desert territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The region has abundant oil reserves and is China’s largest natural gas-producing region.
Original reporting by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service and Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Uyghur by Mamatjan Juma and from the Chinese by Jennifer Chou. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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