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Noorpolat Abdulla Case Information
Australia's forgotten (Uyghur) prisoner
Herald Sun - Mark Dunn - December 13, 2006

Noorpolat Abdulla, Noorpolat Abdulla, 36, now faces another nine years in the former Soviet prison unless the Kazakh Government accepts his plea for clemency.

But his family holds little hope for Mr Abdulla, who was convicted of terrorism charges on evidence his supporters and Amnesty International say is highly questionable.

The Australian Government is also concerned about Mr Abdulla's welfare.

His sister, Zulfiya Abdulla, told the Herald Sun: "There were three witnesses: one said Noorpolat was not the guy involved (in terrorism), the second witness was drunk, and the third one didn't even turn up to court."

The family says two grenades were planted in a yard at Mr Abdulla's home in Almaty.

They say a senior official victimised him because of his Uighur ethnicity and to make him a scapegoat over the killing of two Kazakh police in 2000.

Mr Abdulla attended the mosque in Gilles Plains, South Australia, that Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks attended. But though much has been written about Hicks, little attention has been given to Mr Abdulla's plight.

Mr Abdulla was picked up by authorities along with about 100 other people, but has denied knowing anything about the murders or terrorism.

Uighurs argue they are persecuted by Kazakh and Chinese authorities.

"He had no idea what was going on. He didn't even know about his charges until he was in court," Ms Abdulla said.

After his arrest, she said, he was beaten, and interrogators demanded he sign a confession.

Mr Abdulla refused to sign, but eventually placed his thumbprint on the statement to stop the beatings, the family says.

"They started hitting him in the head so much he started going crazy," Ms Abdulla said.

The family alleges the thumbprint was found the next day on a hand grenade they say was planted beside a kennel on the family property.

The judge at the first hearing told prosecutors there was virtually no evidence against Mr Abdulla.

"The judge said: 'This is a very weak case. Either you find more (evidence) or I will release him," Ms Abdulla said.

Her brother was then accused of being an associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, a charge his family says is ludicrous.

A recorded conversation purported to relate to a plot to bomb the Interior Ministry, which the prosecution says is Mr Abdulla speaking with "bosses" in Afghanistan, was never made available in court.

Mr Abdulla was convicted of terrorism charges in October 2001 during a closed-court hearing from which Australian consular officials were barred.

Some of those linked to the police shootings -- later killed in a police raid themselves -- were allegedly linked to Mr Abdulla.

But he said he knew them only for business purposes and because they were Uighurs.

The case arose just after the September 11 attacks in the US. The family believes the attacks allowed Kazakhstan's authorities to use terrorism allegations to crack down on Uighur activists.

The family now wants the Australian Government to support a clemency plea to have Mr Abdulla released, which is a possibility now that he has served one third of his original 15-year sentence.

Prisoners at the remote Dolinka prison near Qaragandy must work in a local coal mine to earn money to pay for food and other essentials. Bribery and beatings are common.

Mr Abdulla is held in a dormitory with 30 other inmates, and his family sends him $1900 a month. He earns extra money cleaning the prison toilets.

"They are very bad conditions there: it is freezing cold and it's very polluted. Even the snow is black," Ms Abdulla said from her Adelaide home.

She and her husband made the arduous trip to visit her brother last year.

The photograph of Mr Abdulla, above, shows him in a unit in which he can spend three days while his family visits.

He is regarded as a religious adviser in jail, counselling Muslim inmates.

His family says he is not an extremist and has no links to terrorism.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the embassy in Moscow had been providing consular assistance since Mr Abdulla's arrest; the most recent visit was on September 13. "(He) appeared well and was provided with (food)."

The World Uighur Congress has called on Kazakhstan to free Mr Abdulla, saying his jailing is political. And the East Turkestan Australian Association has written to Prime Minister John Howard seeking aid in gaining Mr Abdulla's release.

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