The lawyer for imprisoned activist Huseyin Celil says it’s good for Chinese authorities to know the Burlington father of four has powerful friends.

That’s why Hamilton lawyer Chris MacLeod is delighted the U.S. House of Representatives has urged China to release Celil, a Canadian citizen sentenced to life in prison.

China jailed Celil as an alleged terrorist. His family says he is being persecuted because he is a Muslim and a political dissident.

The U.S. resolution calls for the release of Celil and the three sons of exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, who spent seven years in a Chinese prison herself before being released after Washington called for her freedom.

MacLeod said Celil’s wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, is very happy with the U.S move.

Telendibaeva has promised to mount an international campaign to secure her husband’s release after his death sentence was reduced to life in prison in July.

She was not available for comment yesterday.

“(Washington’s request) is a welcome voice to the call that we have been making for Huseyin Celil’s release,” said MacLeod.

“It is important because Rebiya Kadeer, who is currently president of the World Uighur Congress, was released because the U.S. Congress called for her release.

“They pressured China to release her.”

Ironically, the week Celil was sentenced to life in prison in China, Kadeer’s sons, who are still in the country, were arrested.

“The United States is still the world’s largest superpower so when their legislators call for the release of someone during the run-up to the Olympics (coming to Beijing next year), it really matters.

“Every voice that calls out, every voice that has power that speaks out and says ‘you can’t do this,’ counts.”

The resolution also called on China to “refrain from further engaging in acts of cultural, linguistic and religious suppression directed against” the Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims who once dominated Xinjiang, a Central Asia border province.

Beijing has waged a suppression campaign against Uighur secessionism.

Written by: J. Burman
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