The wife of jailed activist Huseyin Celil appealed to the Canadian government yesterday to do more to press his case with China, saying officials must act in the critical runup to the Beijing Olympics.

Kamila Telendibaeva suggested the federal government would do more if she and her husband, Chinese refugees who are Canadian citizens, had been born in this country.

“Why did you give us Canadian citizenship if you weren’t going to protect us the way you would protect anyone born in Canada?” she asked.

Wearing a blue head scarf and a long brown skirt, Ms. Telendibaeva read a statement in a soft voice at a news conference at Amnesty International’s annual general meeting in Toronto. She was joined by Rebiya Kadeer, considered the most important leader of the Uyghur people, the Muslim minority group to which Mr. Celil belongs.

Ms. Telendibaeva, who has four young boys, said she worries about her husband’s health, saying Canada must use the window of opportunity before the Olympics in August to insist that officials be granted access to Mr. Celil and advocate for his release.

“I’m grateful to the Canadian government for speaking to the Chinese government about my husband, but it’s time to take strong action to convince the Chinese to release my husband. Huseyin is in jail because he’s a human-rights activist who has stood up for the rights of others. Now it’s time for Canada to stand up for him,” she said.

Ms. Telendibaeva and Ms. Kadeer both called on Canada to appoint an envoy to lobby for Mr. Celil, but stopped short of directly criticizing the Canadian government for not being more publicly vocal, saying they believe officials are working behind the scenes.

Earlier this week, Ms. Kadeer also met with Conservative MP Jason Kenney, who has been one of the most active politicians on the Celil file. Mr. Kenney invited Ms. Kadeer to Question Period on behalf of the government.

Mr. Celil was travelling on a Canadian passport when he was arrested in Uzbekistan two years ago and eventually handed over to Chinese officials, who accused him of terrorism and sentenced him to life in prison. He and his supporters deny the charges.

Written by: JILL MAHONEY
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