Uyghur House Church Leader Freed from Chinese Labor Camp

Dec 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Uyghur House Church Leader Freed from Chinese Labor Camp

SANTA ANA, Calif., Nov. 30 /Christian Newswire/ — Uyghur Christian house church leader Osman Imin has been released after serving two years in a Chinese labor camp for alleged “illegal proselytizing” and “leaking state secrets.”

Osman Imin and Alimjan Yimit

Osman Imin and Alimjan Yimit

Imin, arrested Nov. 19, 2007, was released after an Open Doors USA e-mail campaign to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, on behalf of him and another Uyghur church leader, who remains in custody.

Authorities had called for a 10-15 year prison sentence for the outspoken leader of the Uyghur church in China’s troubled Xinjiang province, but significantly reduced the term following international media attention. Later, officials sentenced Imin to two years of “re-education through labor,” forcing him to work 12 -15 hours a day, which took a grave toll on his health.

“We rejoice that Osman Imin has been freed from the forced labor camp, but our concerns continue for Alimjan Yimit, who remains in confinement,” says Lindsay Vessey, advocacy program manager for Open Doors USA.

First arrested in 2004, because of his church work, Imin was confined at a detention center in Hotan, southern Xinjiang, where in winter he was chained to a metal bed and frequently beaten while interrogated. Imin was released on bail on Nov. 18, 2004, but bail was canceled in October 2006. On July 26, 2007, he was again placed under supervised house arrest and later charged with “revealing state secrets.” Authorities denied him access to a lawyer. A court rejected his appeal without explanation in June 2008.

Earlier this year, Open Doors USA launched an e-mail campaign to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, requesting the immediate release of Imin and Alimjan Yimit, who remains in pre-trial arrest. Yimit is a Uyghur Christian convert from Islam whom authorities have accused of working for a foreign-owned business as a cover for “preaching Christianity.” State officials detained him on Jan. 12, 2008, on a “national security issue” charge. Yimit is a house church leader in Kashgar, located in Xinjiang.

In this region of ethnic Uyghurs rife with tensions simmering between the separatist movement and the Chinese government seeking to destroy it, Yimit’s family and friends fear he could face execution if he were wrongly linked with alleged Uyghur separatists. Although court officials returned his case to state prosecutors in May 2008 for lack of evidence, his family learned that the Public Security Bureau in Kashgar planned to bypass the court system and sentence him to three years of re-education through labor. These actions are seen as part of a government scheme to shut down the tiny Uyghur church in this restive region where authorities fear anything they cannot control.

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