His new Canadian passport was not enough to protect Huseyin Celil, a Muslim refugee who is being held in a prison in Uzbekistan and facing possible deportation to China, where he is under sentence of death.

Friends say that Mr. Celil, 37, a father of six, was arrested by Uzbek authorities March 26 on a Chinese warrant when he arrived in Tashkent, the capital of the Central Asian nation, hoping to be reunited with his three eldest sons.

Mr. Celil, who has been a Canadian citizen for only a few months, was sentenced to death in absentia by courts in his native China for founding a separatist political party and other alleged subversive political activity.

He is a member of the Uighur Muslim minority that inhabits a remote but oil-rich region of western China.

Burhan Celik, a family friend who lives in Ottawa and who speaks the same native language as Mr. Celil, said the new Canadian citizen understood there were risks visiting Uzbekistan.

“He knew it was dangerous. But he wanted to see his sons. He has three teenage sons. It’s something any father would do,” Mr. Celik said yesterday.

Mr. Celil had good reason to believe that China would allow the older sons to travel to Uzbekistan, Mr. Celik said.

The Uighur people have travelled back and forth for many years. At one point, China and Uzbekistan are separated by only a thin strip of Kyrgystan.

Mr. Celil’s three eldest sons remained behind in China when he escaped the country. His wife, Kamila, was able to join him in Canada.

The couple have lived in the Hamilton area for four years. He is an imam at a mosque in the city. The couple have three other children born in Canada.

The Celils and their three youngest — all travelling on Canadian passports — planned the reunion in Tashkent, where Kamila Celil has family.

Mr. Celik, the family friend, said he got a telephone call informing him that Mr. Celil had been arrested on March 31 and he immediately informed the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.

He said he was in telephone contact again yesterday with Kamila Celil, and she has been unable to see her husband. “She is very scared.”

She does not want to leave Tashkent until she sees her husband and is sure he is alive and well.

Canada has no full-time diplomats in Tashkent. There is an honorary consul, who has reportedly offered to help Kamila Celil and her children return to Canada.

The Canadian Embassy in Moscow is handling the case, officials in Ottawa said. Canadian privacy laws prevent them from releasing details, they said.

Mr. Celik fears that unless Canada applies diplomatic pressure on Uzbekistan, the regime there will deport his friend to China, where he faces almost certain execution despite his Canadian passport.

Uzbekistan and China have close diplomatic and economic relations. Uzbekistan’s human rights record is spotty.

Amnesty International reported last year that its government still obtains evidence by torture.

Written by: JEFF SALLOT
Original Link: theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-canadian-citizen-held-in-uzbek-jail/article18159938/