US urges China to free Uighur academic

Ilham Tohti, a university professor, blogger, and member of the Muslim Uighur minority, seen in Beijing, China, on June 12, 2010The United States on Wednesday urged China to free a prominent Uighur academic who faces charges that could carry the death penalty after criticizing government policy. The US was “deeply concerned” for Ilham Tohti, an economics lecturer in Beijing who was charged following more than a month of detention, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “We call on Chinese authorities to release Mr. Tohti and to guarantee him the protections and freedoms to which he’s entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including the freedom of expression,” Psaki told reporters in Washington. Tohti has emerged as one of the most visible critics of China’s policy toward the Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group concentrated in the western Xinjiang region, where tensions have mounted in recent years.

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