Activists: Morocco arrests Uyghur man at China’s request
Moroccan authorities have arrested the Uyghur activist in exile based on a Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol, according to information from Moroccan police and a rights group that tracks people detained by China. Activists fear Yidiresi Aishan will be extradited to China, and say the arrest is part of a broader Chinese campaign to hunt down perceived dissidents outside its borders. (Safeguard Defenders via AP)
According to Moroccan police and a rights group that tracks people detained by China, Moroccan authorities arrested a Uyghur activist in exile based on a Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol.
Activists are concerned that Yidiresi Aishan will be extradited to China, and claim that the arrest is politically motivated and part of a larger Chinese campaign to track down perceived dissidents outside of China’s borders.
Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security announced on Tuesday that a Chinese citizen was apprehended after arriving from Istanbul at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca on July 20.
He “was the subject of a red notice issued by Interpol due to his suspected involvement in a terrorist organization,” as per the directorate.
According to the directorate, the red notice — the equivalent of being placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list — was issued at the request of China, which is seeking his extradition. According to the report, Moroccan authorities notified Interpol and Chinese authorities of the arrest, and the Chinese citizen was referred to prosecutors pending the extradition procedure.
The arrested man was not identified publicly by Moroccan police, but he was identified as Aishan by the nongovernmental organization Safeguard Defenders.
According to friend and colleague Abduweli Ayup, Aishan, a 33-year-old computer engineer and father of three, has been based in Turkey since 2012, where he worked as a web designer and activist and has residency papers. Aishan worked on an online newspaper for the Uyghur diaspora and assisted other activists in media outreach and gathering testimonies of abuse in China’s Xinjiang province.
Aishan left Istanbul for Casablanca on the evening of July 19 after being arrested several times in Turkey. According to Ayup, who is in contact with Aishan’s family, Aishan called his wife on Saturday and informed her that he was being deported.
Requests for comment on the arrest were not immediately responded to by Interpol or the Chinese Embassy in Morocco. The specific charges against him are unknown.
Morocco ratified an extradition treaty with China in 2017, one of several treaties signed by China in recent years.
Following knifings and bombings by a small number of extremist Uyghurs native to Xinjiang, China has described its sweeping detention of a million or more Uyghurs and other largely Muslim minorities as a “war against terror.” According to researchers, many innocent people have been detained for reasons such as traveling abroad or attending religious gatherings
The Moroccan ambassadors in Washington and Brussels have been asked not to extradite Aishan. According to Safeguard Defenders’ Peter Dahlin, it is “not uncommon” for Chinese authorities to obtain Interpol red notices for Uyghur and other dissidents abroad.
In a case related, in April, a Chinese teenager who claimed to be a permanent resident of the United States was detained in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, while transferring for a flight. Wang Jingyu, a 19-year-old student, was sought by Chinese officials after making online comments about deadly border clashes between Chinese and Indian forces last year. The U.S. State Department called it a human rights concern. Wang was freed in May, and he and his fiancee fled to the Netherlands.
According to experts, both cases contribute to growing concerns about China’s extraterritoriality.