Chinese President Hu Jintao has agreed to pass on a request to local authorities that Canadian diplomats and relatives be allowed to visit Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said Wednesday.

Mr. Harper raised the issue during a meeting with Mr. Hu at the Group of Eight summit in Japan, the PMO said.

Mr. Celil, of Burlington, Ont., was travelling on a Canadian passport when he was arrested in Uzbekistan in March of 2006 and handed over to Chinese officials, who accused him of terrorism and sentenced him to life in prison. He and his supporters deny the charges.

His wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, urged the federal government last month to do more to press his case with China in the runup to the Beijing Olympics. Mr. Celil’s imprisonment has been a sticking point in Canadian-Chinese relations, and it led Mr. Harper to say in February of 2007 that he would not drop human-rights concerns for the “almighty dollar.”

Written by: Campbell Clark
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