Huseyin Celil was originally a member of China’s muslim Uighur community and advocated for their religious rights.

A Chinese court has reduced the life sentence of Canadian Huseyin Celil, reports Nathan Vanderklippe of the Globe and Mail. The sentences of Celil and 10 other ethnic Uighurs were commuted, according to the Xinhua news agency. They had been convicted of terrorism and endangering state security.

Seven of the prisoners’ life sentences were commuted to between 19 and 20 years, said Xinhua. But it did not specify whether Celil was one of them.

Canada accepted Celil as a refugee

Celil originally fled China in 1994. He had been arrested on murder and terrorism charges, and was sentenced to death for creating a political party. The United Nations declared him a refugee and Canada accepted him.

In 2006, Celil travelled to Uzbekistan on his Canadian passport. Police arrested him and deported him to China. Chinese authorities steadfastly refused to recognize his Canadian citizenship and imprisoned him. He was in solitary confinement for long periods, subjected to harsh treatment and was denied visits from Canadian consular officials.

Celil’s treatment caused friction

The issue caused friction between China and the previous Canadian government of Stephen Harper. Amnesty International Canada championed his case. The news about Celil comes at a time when Canada’s new government is seeking to improve relations with China.

Celil has a wife and four children living in Hamilton, in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Written by: Lynn Desjardins
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