In a rare event, Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil was allowed to meet one of his family members last week, as he continues to serve a life sentence in China.

One of Mr. Celil’s sisters, Meryem, met with the imprisoned Canadian for about 20 minutes, according to Mehmet Tohti, head of the Uyghur Canadian Association. It was the first time he had talked to his sister in 13 years, Mr. Tohti said. Mr. Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan and handed over to China in 2006. He was travelling on a Canadian passport at the time.

Chinese authorities accused him of terrorism and charged him with engaging in violent separatist activities. In April, he was sentenced to life in prison. In violation of international agreements, Beijing has refused to grant Canadian officials access to him.

The Canadian’s story garnered international headlines last year, but Mr. Celil has largely disappeared from the news media spotlight since he began serving his life sentence.

In his meeting with his sister, he complained of persistent kidney problems, for which he has received no medical attention, Mr. Tohti said.

Mr. Celil is currently serving his life sentence in Bajiahu prison in northwest China. The prison has long been used to hold those accused by Chinese officials of separatist activities, especially members of the Muslim Uyghur minority.

Mr. Celil also revealed to his sister that his lawyer in Beijing has about 30 pages of first-hand testimony that the prisoner was not allowed to present during his Chinese court hearing, Mr. Tohti said.

The testimony would represent the first time Mr. Celil has given his side of the story since his imprisonment in Uzbekistan and subsequent deportation to China.

In his meeting last week, he asked that the testimony be transferred from his Beijing lawyer, who has essentially exhausted all Mr. Celil’s legal avenues in China, to Canadian embassy officials.

Mr. Celil also asked his sister to plead with Canadian officials to arrange a phone call between the prisoner and his wife in Burlington, Ont., Mr. Tohti said. Mr. Celil has not seen or spoken to his wife since he was arrested.

Written by: OMARL EL AKKAD
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