Thailand to decide if Uighur family can go to Turkey

Official at Turkish embassy in Bangkok confirms that family - in custody since last year - are now Turkish citizens

Editor / Internet Anadolu Agency
A Bangkok criminal court will decide March 27 if a Uighur family detained in Thailand last year be released from custody, opening the door for a new life in Turkey or the risk of an uncertain future in China.

A judge announced to South Bangkok Criminal court Tuesday that the Muslim family of 17 were granted Turkish passports by the Turkish embassy in the Thai capital while in detention last year.

An official at the embassy confirmed to The Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that they are now "Turkish citizens."

The husband and wife, their two infants - one born during custody - and the husband's two sisters and their children have been held at the immigration detention center in Bangkok since March last year, when they were detained crossing into Thailand from Cambodia.

Ashan Teklimakan, 26, and Rukiye Teklimakan, 27, attended the hearing Tuesday, which challenged the continued legality of their detention.

Family lawyer Worasit Piriyawiboon stated that by law Thailand could only detain immigrants for 48 hours, and detention cannot be extended for more than seven days.

He added that their continued detention had no legal basis, particularly as no court order had been issued for their imprisonment.

Danthong Breen, an advisor to Union for Civil Liberty - a local human rights NGO - said the detention was contrary to article 12 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party and which says that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."

Ahmed Idem Akay, first counselor at the Turkish embassy, told AA Tuesday that the family "are Turkish."

That is why "we are following the case," he added. “They want to go to Turkey and we are ready to accept them. But [the release] is up to Thai authorities."

The couple confirmed to the judge that Turkey was their chosen destination.

“I want my son to go to study and have a good and healthy life," Rukiye - in a hijab, and orange prison T-Shirt - said.

During the course of Tuesday's hearing, the lawyer and the couple frequently stated that they were given Turkish passports last year. Photocopies of the documents were also shown to the judge.

On several previous occasions, Turkish passports held by Uighur have been shown to be fake and bought on the black market, the holders eventually returned to China.

In September 2014, four Uighur were arrested in Indonesia for violating immigration law by using fake Turkish passports.

Many others from the Muslim ethnic group have been rounded up in Malaysia and charged with the same crime.

Since October 2013, around 300 Uighur have been rounded up in Thailand. Many of them claim to have Turkish nationality and are currently in detention in Bangkok or in Songkhla, in the country's south.

The Bangkok Post reported earlier this month that China has asked Thailand to provide the fingerprints and photos of all those detained so that they can check if “they are terrorists."

A police immigration officer giving testimony to the court Tuesday said that Beijing has also asked Thailand to repatriate them.

Several representatives from the Chinese embassy also attended Tuesday's hearing.

The Uighur ethnic group, which constitutes around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang - home to the Uighur - has accused China of carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities.

A yearlong "anti-terrorism'' campaign -- focusing on Xinjiang -- was launched by China's central government on May 23 and will be in effect until June 2015.

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