Huseyin Celil never had a chance to open his mouth. Nor did his lawyer.

The entire proceeding was over in less than 40 minutes, without time for any defence arguments to be heard. The appeal was brusquely dismissed and a Canadian embassy official was left outside the courtroom, barred from hearing any of it.

Such were the proceedings in a Chinese court in the city of Urumqi Tuesday, as the judges rejected an appeal by Mr. Celil, the Canadian citizen who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatist activities.”

The decision triggered a sharp reaction from the Canadian government.

“We were deeply disappointed to learn that Mr. Celil’s appeal has been rejected by a Chinese superior court,” Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement Tuesday. “In our view, due process for this Canadian citizen was not followed and his rights were not respected.”

Mr. Celil is accused of terrorism because of his alleged links to groups seeking independence for Xinjiang, the western region of China where the Uyghurs are the main ethnic group. China has refused to recognize his Canadian citizenship on the grounds that he did not leave China legally.

Legal experts say China’s actions are a contradiction of its own laws, which specify that Chinese citizens are automatically stripped of their Chinese citizenship as soon as they become citizens of another country.

Mr. Celil’s lawyer, Wei Rujiu, wanted to make this argument in court Tuesday. But he was not permitted to speak.

“I can only say it was inappropriate,” Mr. Wei said in an interview.

“In order for the court to judge this case better and more accurately, the court should hold a trial before announcing the decision.”

Mr. Wei said he had submitted documents to the judges before the ruling, making his case on behalf of Mr. Celil, but he had no way of knowing whether the documents were considered or not.

In Canada, Mr. Celil’s wife learned of the court’s decision when the Department of Foreign Affairs called her early Tuesday morning.

“I was not surprised, really,” Kamila Telendibaeva said. “We didn’t expect more from China.”

Ms. Telendibaeva said she will continue to press Canada and the international community to demand Mr. Celil’s release. “I will not give up until he gets home.”

Charles Burton, a Canadian political scientist and former Canadian diplomat who is closely following the Celil case, said the court’s action today was distressing.

“I am shocked and saddened by the lack of due process of law extended to Mr. Celil,” Mr. Burton said in an interview.

“It is difficult to understand why the court would not permit his lawyer to speak in his defence, unless it is because the Chinese government’s case against him is very weak. His fellow Canadians deserve an explanation for why he has been denied the opportunity to defend himself against these very serious charges.”

After the brief proceeding Tuesday, Mr. Celil was taken to an unknown prison without being allowed to speak to any of his family members or his lawyer.

“His mother is so heartbroken that she couldn’t eat anything,” Mr. Wei said. Another relative said Mr. Celil’s mother wept over the decision.

“She is feeling very upset and weak,” the relative said. “Other family members also feel very sad now.”

Mr. Celil’s family is considering a further appeal to a higher court in Beijing.

Written by: Geoffrey York and OMARL EL AKKAD
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