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Uyghur activist faces extradition from Morocco to China

Published: August 04, 2021

Last updated: December 15, 2021

Yidiresi Aishan is an Uyghur Muslim who holds Chinese citizenship. He was arrested on July 19, 2021 on arrival at Casablanca airport, Morocco, on the basis of a red notice issued by Interpol at China’s request. The Interpol red notice, however, was suspended on August 2, 2021. Aishan’s case has been referred to the Court of Cassation for a ruling on his extradition. He is currently being held in Tiflet 2 prison.

Yidiresi Aishan is an Uyghur of Muslim faith, who holds Chinese citizenship. He and his family are originally from Korla in the Xinjiang province.

Due to the discriminatory policy of the Chinese central government, especially regarding access to employment, Aishan and his family decided, in 2012, to move to Turkey in order to benefit from more professional opportunities.

Since living in Turkey, Aishan has been very sensitive to human rights issues in Xinjiang province and has carried out activities to help fellow refugees in the country.

Between 2014 and 2017, Aishan was administratively detained in Erzurum detention centre by the Turkish authorities, following extradition requests from China. In 2020, he was granted a humanitarian visa by the Turkish Ministry of Interior.

In 2021, Aishan felt that he was no longer safe in Turkey and decided to apply for asylum in a European Union (EU) member state. As he was unable to book a direct flight to an EU country, he had no choice but to fly to Morocco with the intention of later reaching a European country. According to the French daily newspaper Libération, the intended destination would be France.

Aishan was then arrested on arrival at Casablanca airport on the night of July 19-20, 2021. On July 20, airport officers handed him over to the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (National Office for Combating Terrorism and Organised Crime) and informed him that he was wanted by the Chinese authorities for a terrorism case.

Aishan’s arrest was confirmed by the Moroccan authorities. In a statement to the press, a security source said that Aishan was “the subject of a red notice issued by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), due to the suspicion of his membership to an organisation classified as a terrorist organisation”, and that he had been “brought before the competent prosecutor’s office pending extradition proceedings, in accordance with national legal provisions and international conventions relating to the extradition of criminals.”

The aforementioned Interpol red notice was issued on March 13, 2017. The Chinese authorities state that Aishan has joined the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). In addition, the red notice states that an arrest warrant was issued for Aishan on July 10, 2014, and that he is wanted for “actively leading or participating in terrorist organisations” on the basis of article 120 of the Criminal Code, and that he faces life imprisonment. Although ETIM is considered a terrorist group in several countries, in 2020 the U.S. State Department removed it from its list of terrorist organisations.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government continues to pressure foreign governments and intergovernmental agencies to designate the ETIM movement and other Uyghur organisations and individuals, including those who peacefully defend Uyghur independence, as “terrorists” and has sought foreign cooperation in what it claims to be anti-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang.

Aishan was brought before the prosecutor at the Casablanca Court of First Instance on July 20, 2021, without being provided with access to legal counsel. The prosecutor then ordered him to be remanded in custody in Tiflet 2 prison, pending the judgment of the Court of Cassation.

On July 23, 2021, Aishan was allowed to contact his wife by phone. During this call, he told his wife, “they took me to jail at the request of China. Hurry, please, or they’ll send me back to China.”

On July 29, 2021, one of Aishan’s lawyers was informed that the Attorney General had filed an extradition request on July 28 with the President of the Court of Cassation.

On August 2, 2021, several media sites reported that Interpol had decided to suspend the red notice issued against Aishan.

On August 4, 2021, MENA Rights Group and the Uyghur World Congress requested the intervention of the Special Rapporteur against torture, asking him to intervene urgently with the Moroccan authorities to urge them not to extradite Aishan to China and to release him immediately. An extradition would constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement enshrined under article 3 of the Convention against Torture, to which Morocco is a party.


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