Detained Canadian Huseyin Celil has been granted another meeting with his family in his remote northwest China prison.

Mr. Celil – who was arrested in Uzbekistan and handed over to China in the summer of 2006 – complained of severe stomach pains and said his repeated requests to see a doctor have proved useless, according to a friend of the family.

“He is still in solitary confinement,” said Canadian Uyghur human rights activist Mehmet Tohti.

China accuses Mr. Celil of terrorism. Despite the objection of senior Canadian government officials, who have said they’ve seen no evidence of his guilt, Mr. Celil was sentenced to life in prison. Beijing has never recognized his Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Celil was allowed to visit with his mother, who still lives in China. The meeting took place last Friday morning. Mr. Celil’s wife and children live in Burlington, Ont.

Mr. Celil is a Uyghur – a minority Muslim ethnic group residing mainly in northwest China. Beijing hasconvicted many Uyghurs of terrorism and “separatism” offences.

Last October, Mr. Celil’s family members in China secretly recorded another prison visit – a copy of that recording was obtained by The Globe and Mail. This time, Mr. Celil and his mother were separated by a glass partition, and had to use a phone to talk to one another. The meeting lasted 25 minutes.

Mr. Tohti said Ottawa is deliberately muting its previously vocal criticism of Beijing as the government shifts focus to trade and economic issues.

“The government is a little bit silent about criticizing China’s human rights record right now,” he said.

Canada’s relationship with China is currently under the spotlight, as International Trade Minister Stockwell Day continues a week-long visit to the country. However that trip is expected to be dominated by discussion of the global financial crisis and bilateral trade issues.

Written by: OMARL EL AKKAD
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