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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK
Canada angry at Uighur sentence
Uighurs at prayer
Amnesty International says Uighurs are being wrongly persecuted
Canada has condemned the authorities in China for sentencing a Canadian Uighur rights activist to life imprisonment.

Huseyincan Celil was jailed for crimes of "splitting the motherland" and participating in terrorist groups, according to China's state media.

Celil, who was born in China but gained Canadian citizenship as a political refugee, was arrested in Uzbekistan and deported to China last year.

Canada said it was concerned about claims that Celil had been tortured.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said he was disappointed at the sentence and said the case had harmed relations between the two countries.

"The stakes are very high for Mr Celil, and certainly this case has had a spillover impact on Canada's relationship with China," Mr MacKay told reporters.

Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture
Celil was born in Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Uighur people.

Xinjiang - which is predominantly Muslim, and borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia - has long desired autonomy from Beijing.

But Beijing insists it is part of China, and accuses militant groups of using violence in their struggle to set up an independent East Turkestan state.

Celil left the area in the 1990s and arrived in Canada as a political refugee in 2001. He was given Canadian citizenship, although this has never been recognised by China.

According to his wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, he was arrested in Uzbekistan in May 2006 and deported to China, where he was taken into custody.

Canadian officials have since been trying to gain access to him, and are angry that he had to appear at his trial - in the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang - without a Canadian diplomat present.

Mr McKay is due to visit China later this month, and he has made clear that he will raise Celil's predicament during talks.

"We don't intend to let this case go," he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said: "The case of Huseyincan Celil is an internal affair, and Canada has no right to interfere."

Chinese and Canadian reaction to the case

Canadian 'anger' at China trial
07 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China's grip on Xinjiang Muslims
29 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China jails Uighur activist's son
27 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific

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