The wife of a Canadian citizen who is serving a life sentence in China after being accused of being a terrorist is asking Ottawa to press her husband’s case with the Chinese government and use the upcoming Beijing Olympics to secure his release.

Kamila Telendibaeva, wife of Huseyin Celil, begged the Canadian government to do something to help free her husband before Canada sends its athletes to Beijing. Speaking at a news conference yesterday held by Amnesty International to kick off its annual general meeting, Telendibaeva said she was optimistic that Canada would take action before the Olympic Games.

“It’s time to take strong action to convince the Chinese government to release my husband,” she said.

She told the packed news conference she is worried about her husband, his health and the conditions he may be living in. She has not spoken to him since March 2006, although she has received a letter from him through his family in China. Members of his family in China saw Celil last December, she said.

Her husband was a human-rights activist who stood up for others, she said. “Now it’s time for Canada to stand up for him.”

Celil, an Uyghur activist who fled China to come to Canada in the 1990s as a refugee, was arrested while visiting relatives in Uzbekistan two years ago. He was eventually handed over to the Chinese, who accused him of being a terrorist and sentenced him to life in prison. His wife and four children live in Burlington. The Uyghur people are a Muslim ethnic minority in China.

Telendibaeva was joined in her plea to help her husband by an internationally renowned Uyghur political leader, Rebiya Kadeer, who was in Canada to speak to Ottawa officials about China’s human rights record and the Celil case, as well as attend Amnesty’s annual meeting.

The Chinese imprisoned Kadeer for eight years after a secret trial. She was charged with “providing secret information to foreigners.” She condemned China’s human rights record, saying the Chinese government promised before the Olympics to improve human rights, but once it got the Olympic Games the government used it as an opportunity to abuse the human rights of the Tibetans and the Uyghurs.

Now, Kadeer is based in the United States where she continues to lobby on behalf of the Uyghur people. Four of her children who remain in China are also imprisoned.

“I hope all Canadians stand up and help the case of Huseyin Celil,” she said.

Amnesty International Canada’s secretary general Alex Neve condemned Canada and the international community for not lobbying harder to get China to improve its record on human rights.

Written by: Debra Black
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