Indonesia Deports Three Uyghurs Back to China

  • Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the safety of two of the men.
  • China regards many Uyghurs as extremists and claims that they pose a threat to China's national security.
  • Turkey usually grants all Uyghur exiles some form of temporary or permanent residence.

A senior security source in Indonesia said that before US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Indonesia on Thursday (October 29), Indonesia deported three Uyghurs from prison to China. The source said that this action occurred before Pompeo arrived in Indonesia and met with Indonesian President Widodo.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo talks with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

During his visit to Jakarta, Pompeo urged Indonesian Muslims and religious leaders not to “ignore” the suffering of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. “They were sent back to China on a special flight chartered by the (Chinese) government,” the source said. As he was not authorized to speak to the media, he requested anonymity.

There is no indication that the deported Uighurs are connected to Pompeo’s visit. Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the safety of two of the men, stating that “they may face severe penalties, including the death penalty, after returning to their country.”

The two men were detained for trying to join a local militant group.

China regards many Uyghurs as extremists and claims that they pose a threat to China’s national security.

The source said that both China and Turkey have pressured the Indonesian government to send the three Uyghurs (all Chinese from Xinjiang) to their respective countries. The Indonesian authorities required China and Turkey to prove that the three men are their citizen.

Turkey usually grants all Uyghur exiles some form of temporary or permanent residence. “But only China provided the DNA of the three Uighurs’ family members who are still in Xinjiang,” the source said. “They were sent to China because it has been proven that they are Chinese citizens.”

Human Rights Watch said the three Uighurs will be abused when they return to China. Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Asia, said, “Past practice shows that these people are very likely to be sentenced to severe punishment, including the death penalty.”

“The Indonesian government knows that the Chinese government often persecutes Uyghurs, but it seems to have made a ruthless decision that violates its legal responsibility to protect the people from persecution.” However, the source said that whenever Indonesia conducts deportation, it always reminds the receiving country to treat the deportees “in accordance with human rights principles.”

Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he has no “information” about the three Uighurs. Mohamad Adhe Bhakti, executive director of the Center for Radicalism and De-radicalization Research (PAKAR), said that the deportation set a bad precedent for the Indonesian government at a time when anti-China sentiment in Indonesia is on the rise.

“In addition to the anti-China issue, another issue that may arise is that the government’s opponents have stepped up their accusations against Islam,” Adhe said. He added that “organizations that oppose the Indonesian government and who like to use identity politics to attack the government have been stimulated by this incident”.

Human Rights Watch has documented serious human rights violations against Uyghurs, including mass arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, highly politicized trials ending with the death penalty, and torture during detention.

In 2016, Agus Barna, a spokesperson for the Coordination Department of the Indonesian Ministry of Politics, Law, and Security told the BBC Indonesia Channel that the three convicted Uighurs “will not be sent back to China.”

BBC Indonesia quoted a “senior government official” who asked not to be named as saying that the repatriation of these Uighurs is “the same as killing them because they are likely to be executed immediately.”

The three persons-Abdulbasit Tuzer, 26, Ahmet Mahmud, 23, and Altinci Bayram, 32-were each sentenced to six years in prison in 2015 for trying to join the East Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT) group and entering the country illegally with a fake Turkish passport.

Abdulbasit Tuzer, 26, Ahmet Mahmud, 23, and Altinci Bayram, 32

The fourth Uighur, Ahmet Bozoglan, was arrested along with three other people. He was accused of being the leader of the organization. In 2015, he was also sentenced to 6 years in jail for the same crime.

Deka Anwar, a researcher at the Jakarta Institute for Conflict Policy Analysis (IPAC), said that according to court files, the three Uighurs were deceived by Bozoglan, who is a Turkish citizen.

The trio claimed that Bozoglan had promised to help them travel to Turkey, and Indonesia was only their transit point on their way to Turkey because the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Turkey was under stricter scrutiny.

They were arrested in Poso, Sulawesi in September 2014, when they tried to meet with Santoso, the head of the East Indonesian jihadists and Indonesia’s most wanted man at the time.

The East Indonesian Jihadists were the first armed group in Indonesia to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. In 2016, Santoso was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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