Detained Since: January 15, 2014.
Sentence: Life in prison.
Biography: Ilham Tohti is a Uyghur economics professor at Beijing’s Minzu University, where he was known for his research on Uyghur-Han relations as well as his activism for the implementation of regional autonomy laws in China.
In 2006, Tohti founded UighurOnline, a Chinese-language website devoted to fostering understanding between Uighur and Han people, China’s dominant ethnic group. In 2008, authorities shut down his website citing the websites links to Uyghur “extremists” abroad. After the July 5, 2009 ethnic rioting between Uyghurs and Han in Ürümqi, Tohti’s whereabouts were unknown after he had been summoned from his home in Beijing. Tohti was subsequently released on August 23, 2009 after international pressure and condemnation.
Tohti was again arrested in January 2014, after police raided his apartment and confiscated his laptops, books, and papers. In September 2014, after a two-day trial, Tohti was found guilty of “separatism” and sentenced to life imprisonment in addition to all of his assets being frozen.
Advocacy Partner: Reporters Without Borders
Advocate: Rep. James R. Langevin