Uighur academic jailed in China wins human rights award

Ilham Tohti announced as winner of 2016 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders in Geneva.

Fatih Erel and Bayram Altuğ - GENEVA (AA) – Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, given a life sentence by the Chinese authorities for alleged “separatism”, was chosen for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders Tuesday.

Ilham Tohti, 46, a former prominent economics lecturer at a Beijing university, was arrested in January 2014 accused of promoting the separation of Xinjang -- China's most westerly province -- from China. 

Xinjiang is home to a number of ethnic groups including the Uighur, a Turkic-speaking minority who make up 45 percent of the population. 

A ceremony was organized in Geneva for the Martin Ennals Award which is given every year by eight human rights institutions, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein presented the award to Tohti's daughter Ilham Cevher.

Following the ceremony, Ilham Cevher told Anadolu Agency he had not seen his father for two-and-a-half years.

"I feel honored because I received this award on behalf of my father. I hope the award helps my father's freedom," he said and thanked the Turkish people for their support.



Ilham Cevher receives the award on behalf of her jailed father Ilham Tohti

Ilham Cevher receives the award on behalf of her jailed father Ilham Tohti - by Bayram Altuğ © Anadolu Agency


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