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Events in Prague commemorating the 10th anniversary of Ilham Tohti‘s imprisonment

To mark the 10th anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, a press conference was held in Prague and a event “Freedom for Ilham Tohti” will take place at the Václav Havel Library with the participation of key politicians and academics.

Ilham Tohti has been a prominent figure for over 20 years with his work to promote dialogue and understanding between the Uyghur community and China. However, in 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Chinese government in a sham court ruling.

Today, January 15, 2024, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Ilham Tohti’s unjust imprisonment, a press conference was held in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, before noon, and in the evening a event on “Freedom for Ilham Tohti” will be hosted by the Václav Havel Library.

The event will feature key politicians and researchers as speakers or special guests, including the founding chairman of the Ilham Tohti Initiative Enver Can, Ilham Tohti’s daughter Cevher Ilham, the Vice President of the Czech Senate, and the Ambassadors of the United States, Germany, Canada, South Korea and other countries to the Czech Republic.

The event will begin with opening remarks by the Vice President of the Czech Senate Jiří Oberfalzer and the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet:

Speakers:

Javher Ilham (Ilham Tohti’s daughter)

Enver Can (founding president of the Ilham Tohti Initiative Movement)

Ondřej Klimeš (Sinologist and Uyghur expert from the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences)

Moderator:

Kateřina Procházková (journalist and analyst with the SINOPSIS project)


Special Guests:

Vice President of the Czech Senate Jiří Oberfalzer

US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet

German Ambassador to the Czech Republic Andreas Künne

Canadian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Emily McLaughlin

South Korea’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic H.E. Tae-jin Kim

Deputy Mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib

Address: Václav Havel Library, Ostrovní 13, Prague 110 00

Time: January 15, 2024, 19:00 – 21:00

The event will be held in Czech and English with simultaneous translation.

PRESS CONFERENCE HELD

A Press Statement Meeting was organized before the event. Speaking at the press conference, Enver Can, the founding president of Ilham Tohti Initiative, said the following about Ilham Tohti:

Although the Chinese government has sentenced Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment in order to silence him, he is becoming more and more famous in the world and recognized as a hero who fights for the freedom of his people. He has received more than ten international awards for human rights and freedom and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2018. More than 200 members of parliament, government officials and academics from 23 countries have so far nominated Ilham Tohti for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize.

Commenting on the press release and the evnets that will take place in the evening, Enver Can also stated the following:

Today, January 15th, on the 10th anniversary of his arrest, the Ilham Tohti Initiative is commemorating Ilham Tohti in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, hosted by the Václav Havel Library. This shows that the struggle of Ilham Tohti, the hero of the Uyghur people, whom China is trying to exterminate, is gaining more recognition from the international community, which is demanding his release.

Here is the text of the Ilham Tohti Initiative’s press release:

The Ilham Tohti Initiative, today while commemorating the tenth anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s Arrest together with the Vaclav Havel Library, with growing concern about whereabouts and health conditions of the Uyghur scholar, repeats its call on the Chinese government to release him immediately and unconditionally. Further, we urge the international community, including the USA and the EU member countries, including Germany to put more pressure on China amid increased violations of human rights which amounts to crimes against humanity and “Genocide” against the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples in the Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Uyghur observers say, that Ilham Tohti saw the signs of today’s “ethnic genocide” against Uyghur people in advance and warned the Chinese government to take precaution measures to prevent deterioration. But the opposite happened: The Chinese government, instead of making use of Ilham Tohti’s proposals, arrested the Uyghur scholar, accusing him on “seperatism” sentenced to life in prison after a two-day show-trial on 23rd September 2014.

There is no official information about his whereabouts, health, and physical conditions, his daughter Jewher Ilham says, she doesn’t know whether her father is alive, and the Uyghur scholars’ wife Güzelnur was not able to visit her husband for the last seven years. Though, the Chinese law stipulates, he is not enjoying his right of visitations and akept in prison No.1 in Urumchi, despite he is officially a resident of Beijing, and is de facto kept incommunicado.

This is a calculated and cruel deprivation. Enver Can, Founding President of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, say “the combination of denial of visits, communication, gag orders, and family reprisals, have been carefully engineered to punish the Uyghur scholar with degrading treatment and psychological torture, while at the same time keeping his plight away from international attention”.

The CCP aimed to silence him behind the bars, but the Uyghur scholar is now better known by the international community than ever before, as a brave and courageous fighter for freedom and justice. Thus, the UN, the EU, various democratic governments, thousands of academics and human rights organizations, have condemned his imprisonment and have called for his immediate release.

Thus, Prof. Tohti has been awarded with more than 10 international human rights awards since his arrest – the most prestigious among them: the Sakharov Prize for “Freedom of Thought” and Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award” which he was awarded in 2019. He also has been a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize repeatedly for the past seven years, including 2024. His candidacy to the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize have been supported by more than 200 elites from 23 countries.

Mr. Can, citing the growing concern of the Uyghur people around the world about both mental and physical health for their imprisoned scholar, calls the world Community, especially the US and the EU to do more to achieve his immediate release.

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