Long harassed by Chinese authorities for his outspoken views on the rights of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority, 44-year old Tohti—a member of the Uyghur PEN Center—was arrested by authorities at his home in Beijing on January 15, 2014. The arrest occurred in front of Tohti’s two youngest children, aged 4 and 7, who were forced to sit silently and watch as their home was ransacked and their father taken away.An official arrest warrant and notification of the charges presented to Tohti’s wife on February 25 indicate Tohti has been charged with “separatism” and is being held incommunicado at a detention center thousands of miles from Beijing in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Even Tohti’s lawyer has no access to his client. Tohti stands accused of recruiting followers through his now-banned website Uyghur Online. The charge of “separatism” carries a penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment, or even the death penalty in extreme cases.
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