China sentences mother of Uyghur Dutch aviator to 15 years for visiting him abroad

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Chinese authorities have sentenced the mother and sister-in-law of an ethnic Uyghur member of the Dutch air force to 15 years in prison on charges of supporting terrorism and revealing state secrets, Radio Free Asia has learned.

The cases are another example of Beijing heavily penalizing ethnic minority members for visiting or contacting relatives abroad.

Captain Munirdin Jadikar, now a Dutch citizen, has lived in the Netherlands since 2006. His mother came to visit him in 2014 to attend his wedding, he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

In 2016, the same year he joined the Royal Netherlands Air Force, he lost contact with his mother, Imanem Nesrulla, and his sister-in-law, Ayhan Memet, he said.

In 2018, while he was stationed in the United States, his sister-in-law was able to contact him through the WeChat messaging platform for the first time in two years. She told him that Chinese authorities had arrested his mother and sent him to a concentration camp, Munirdin said.

Then in 2019, he learned that his sister-in-law had been arrested for telling him about his mother’s arrest.

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Munirdin appealed several times to the Dutch government to get more information on both cases, but it was not until he returned to the Netherlands in 2020 that his investigation made any progress.

The Dutch foreign ministry contacted the Chinese embassy and in July 2021, he received news that his mother and sister-in-law had both been sentenced to 15 years in prison, he said.

[Ayhan] had told me about my mother’s situation, hoping to get my mother released, since I lived in Europe and worked in the army,’ Munirdin said. “Only for this information, the authorities sentenced her to 15 years in prison.”

Captain Munirdin Jadikar joined the Dutch Air Force in 2016 and rose to captain four years later. He lost contact with his mother, Imanem Nesrulla, and his sister-in-law, Ayhan Memet, in 2016. Credit: Munirdin Jadikar

“Enemy Power”

According to the written response he received from the ministry, Imanem was charged with “supporting terrorist activities and inciting ethnicity”. [sic] hate and discrimination,” and Ayhan for “illegally providing national intelligence to foreign forces.”

According to China, Munirdin said he is considered part of an “enemy force”.

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Munirdin said he was very disappointed that the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not do anything to help him after revealing the fate of his relatives. “It seems that this will harm their great interests,” he said. “I wrote to my prime minister twice but got no reply.”

Munirdin said both his mother and sister-in-law lived and worked in Qumul (Hami in Chinese), about 600 kilometers east of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In an effort to find more details on both cases, RFA reached out Imanem’s last station, a veterinary hospital in the town of Gherbitagh in Qumul. Staff there confirmed she had been arrested but denied knowledge of the sentence or where she was imprisoned.

RFA also contacted the police station in Gherbitagh, and a police officer said he did not know the exact details of Imanem’s case. “I heard from my colleagues that she was arrested for traveling abroad,” he said. “I don’t even know what country she’s been to.”

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Another officer confirmed that Ayhan was sentenced to a long prison term along with her mother-in-law, but denied exact knowledge as the city level police station had handled the case.

“I was not involved in this. I heard that the reason for her arrest was that she had written to someone abroad,” said the second officer.

Due to his professional responsibilities, Munirdin has refrained from any involvement in political activities, but has told RFA that he can no longer remain silent and that he is now doing as much as he can for his mother and sister-in-law.

“[Previously] I was not prepared to speak to the media as a complainant and a victim because of my position,” he said. But now: “I have to do this for my mother and sister-in-law, who are in prison because of me.”

Translated by the RFA Uyghur service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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