Beijing [China], June 9 (ANI): A Uyghur hatmaker and his wife, who were jailed in 2017 amid mass arrests of members of the mostly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang by Chinese authorities, are confirmed to have died in prison while serving their sentences, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported citing people familiar with the couple's situation.
Haji'ahun and his wife Mehpiremhan, natives of Maralbeshi county in Kashgar prefecture, were each given a 10-year term in Tumshuq Prison in 2019 for engaging in "illegal" religious activities, sources quoted by RFA said.
RFA is a news service that broadcasts radio programmes and publishes online news, information, and commentary for its audiences in AsiaThose arbitrarily detained during the 2017 crackdown on prominent and ordinary Uyghurs alike were kept in prison, where they were imprisoned in "re-education" camps and prisons for their suspected involvement in extremist behaviour, such as prior international travel or contacts or participation in religious activities.
China has faced heavy international criticism for the human rights violations it has committed against the primarily Muslim Uyghurs, including the use of forced labour, as per RFA.
The abuses are considered to be genocide or crimes against humanity, according to the US government and other Western parliaments, including the German Bundestag.
An emigre from Maralbeshi told RFA in a previous report that Tumshuq Prison authorities secretly handed over the bodies of several jailed Uyghur, who had died to their families one week before Eid al-Fitr, which commemorates the conclusion of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in late April.
Based on such information, RFA verified that Memettursun Metniyaz, an Uyghur motorbike mechanic, was among those whose bodies were given over to family members.
Early in 2017, a resident of Maralbeshi County was sentenced to prison for having previously completed the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
A week before the Eid holiday, Maralbeshi police were called by RFA and confirmed the return of corpses of dead prisoners to their families. However, they claimed they were unsure of the actual number or the particular circumstances of death.
A police station employee in the Maralbeshi area, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told RFA that the number of detainees, who have died in Tumshuq Prison, has been unusually high and the hatmaker was one of those who died before Eid.
The employee said there was a rumour going around that prisoners who passed away prior to the vacation had consumed tainted food in jail, though the RFA was unable to verify the veracity of the report.
"They were an old couple. Both passed away," confirmed another employee of a police station in Maralbeshi.
Haji'ahun, who was in his 70s, and his wife, in her 60s, passed away in the same prison where they had been detained since their sentencing in 2019, Radio Free Asia reported. (ANI)