Turkey calls on China to release Uighur academic

Turkey calls on China to release Uighur academic

Turkey calls on China to release Uighur academic

University professor, blogger, and member of the Muslim Uighur minority, Ilham Tohti, poses before a classroom lecture in Beijing on June 12, 2010. AFP Photo

Turkey has called on China to release İlham Tohti, a well-known Uighur academic who was jailed for life for separatism, expressing its concerns over the case.

“We are very much concerned about the life sentence issued against Uighur-origin Professor İlham Tohti. We are of the expectation that the aforementioned will be released and the sentence issued against him will be revised in line with the expectations of the international community,” Tanju Bilgiç, spokesperson of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said in a written statement late on Sept. 25.  

China’s alleged violations of human rights in Xinjiang have caused a deterioration of its bilateral ties with Turkey, which has strong historical and cultural bonds with the mostly Muslim region.    

Tohti, a prominent academic from China’s Uighur minority, was jailed for life Sept. 23 for “separatism,” with the European Union expressing outrage at the “completely unjustified” response to criticism of Beijing’s policies in the restive Xinjiang region.

The European Union, United States and human rights groups had all been calling for the release of Tohti, a persistent but moderate government critic who has campaigned for minority rights in the vast western region.