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Uighur historian Tohti Tunyaz released from prison after serving 11-year sentence

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN welcomes the release of Uighur historian and writer Tohti Tunyaz (pen-name: Tohti Muzart) at the end of his eleven-year prison sentence. International PEN calls upon the Chinese authorities to drop all remaining restrictions against Tohti Tunyaz so that he can rejoin his family in Japan, in accordance with Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

According to International PEN's information, Tohti Tunyaz completed his eleven-year prison sentence on 10 February 2009, and was released from Prison No. 3 in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, China. His wife and children have been living in Japan for many years now, and she has recently obtained Japanese citizenship. She has requested that the Chinese authorities allow her husband to return to Japan for medical treatment and to continue his studies at Tokyo University, but it is thought that restrictions on his movement remain.

Tohti Tunyaz was arrested on 6 February 1998 in Urumchi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, whilst on a research trip. At the time of his arrest Tunyaz was studying for a Ph.D. in Uighur history and ethnic relations at Tokyo University in Japan. The charges against him are believed to be linked to his research, and specifically a book allegedly published by Tohti in Japan in 1998 entitled "The Inside Story of the Silk Road", which according to the Chinese government advocates ethnic separation. No such book appears to exist. He was convicted on 10 March 1999 by the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court and, following an appeal, sentenced by the Supreme Court on 15 February 2000 to a total of eleven years' imprisonment and two years of deprivation of political rights for "stealing state secrets" and "inciting national disunity".

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