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Canada presses China over deported Uighur activist

Written by: Staff

OTTAWA, June 28 (Reuters) Canada is pressing China to reveal what it has done with a Canadian citizen who is also a member of the Muslim Uighur minority, Canada's foreign ministry said today.

Huseyincan Celil, who friends say fled China in the mid 1990s, was arrested in the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan in March. Uzbekistan has told Ottawa it deported Celil to China, the ministry said.

Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs account for about 8 million of the 19 million people in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang. Beijing has waged a long campaign against Uighur separatists, whom it labels terrorists.

Uighur activists say they fear China could put Celil, 37, on trial and then execute him. Celil has three young children in Canada and his wife is pregnant.

''When we were informed by Uzbekistan that Mr. Celil was extradited to China, Canada made immediate representations to the Chinese government ... we will continue to press China to confirm that he is in fact being held there,'' said foreign ministry spokeswoman Kim Girtel.

The Uighur Human Rights Project, an activist group based in the United States, said it feared Celil was ''at extremely high risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and even execution''.

Girtel said Ottawa had formally asked Uzbekistan to release Celil on humanitarian grounds.

Canada angered Uzbekistan last year when it agreed to resettle 50 Uzbek refugees, who fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan after troops quelled an uprising.

Reuters SK VP0240

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