A Uyghur mother whose son believed to have been forcibly taken away after 2009 riots in Urumqi was released on May 27 after two years in detention and reunited with her other children, a source close to the family said.
Widow Patigul Ghulam had been one of the most vocal Uyghurs who have been pressing authorities on the whereabouts of family members missing during the violence in Urumqi on July 5, 2009 between minority Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese that left 200 people dead.
Patigul Ghulam had been pressing local police in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, for information on her son. She had been under house arrest and under heavy surveillance since September 2012, was detained in May 2014, a month after she gave an interview to RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Patigul Ghulam appeared at a closed court session on April 7, where she repeatedly denied accusations of separatism and that she leaked state secrets in the interview, a person close to her family told RFA. The source said she rebutted the court charges by saying she was motivated purely by a mother’s concern about her missing son and had no political intent.
She was in good mental and physical condition, but lost significant weight on a prison diet of one half a steamed bun a day, the source said.
Her son, Imammemet Eli, who would now be 32, was taken by police on July 14, 2009 and she last heard about him nine months later, when fellow inmates said he was found severely tortured and taken to a hospital. He is among several thousand people who Uyghur exile groups say were forcibly disappeared in the aftermath of the violence.
An outpouring of support from the Uyghur diaspora on social media drew international media attention to the case and led to employment for her three children, who had been in economic distress following their mother’s detention in 2014, the family acquaintance said.
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