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Two long-term Tibetan political prisoners released PDF Print E-mail
[8 April 2013] The Chinese authorities have released two of Tibet's longest serving political prisoners. Jigme Gyatso and Dawa Gyaltsen were jailed in the mid-1990s for promoting Tibetan independence and received prison sentences of 17 and 18 years respectively. Both men were tortured whilst in prison and have been released in ill-health.

Jigme Gyatso
Jigme GyatsoJigme Gyatso, imprisoned in 1996 for advocating Tibet's independence, was released on 31 March 2013, having served 17 years in prison. Now 52, Jigme was described as "very weak" upon his return to his home (pictured right) in Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe), Kanlho (Ch: Gannan), Amdo (now part of China's Gansu province). He is understood to be suffering from weak eyesight, heart and kidney complications and has difficulty walking - all signs of torture, mistreatment and beatings during imprisonment.

A former monk of Labrang and Ganden monasteries, Jigme was arrested in Lhasa on 30 March 1996. Following eight months in detention, during which time he was tortured, Jigme was sentenced on 25 November 1996 to 15 years imprisonment on charges of "leading a counter-revolutionary organisation". The organisation carried out acts of peaceful resistance including the distribution of materials on Tibetan independence and raising the banned Tibetan national flag at Ganden monastery.

In May 1998 Jigme Gyatso was one of many prisoners who protested in Drapchi prison prior to a visit of EU officials. The protests were brutally suppressed, resulting in the deaths of eight prisoners.

In 2000, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reported that Jigme Gyatso's arrest and imprisonment contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In March 2004, Jigme protested again, shouting "Long Live the Dalai Lama", for which he was kicked and beaten, including with electric batons, and had his sentence extended by two years for "inciting separatism".
On 27 November 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Manfred Nowak, met Jigme Gyatso during an official visit to Chushul Prison, where Jigme had been transferred to earlier that year. Jigme told Dr Nowak that conditions in Chushul were even worse than Drapchi, which was known for its harsh treatment of political prisoners. Following his visit, Dr Nowak called for Jigme's release, saying, Since [Jigme Gyatso] has been convicted of a political crime, possibly on the basis of information extracted by torture, the Special Rapporteur appeals to the [Chinese] government that he be released.

Further reading: ICT I TCHRDRFA I BBC

Dawa Gyaltsen
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), Dawa Gyaltsen was released during March, having served almost 16 years of an 18 year prison sentence. Though there has been no official statement from the Chinese authorities, it is believed he was released early for exhibiting good behaviour. It is also understood Dawa is currently in ill-health, having suffered ill-treatment and torture whilst in prison. TCHRD has referred to his condition as "critical".

Dawa Gyaltsen, formerly a bank accountant, was arrested in Lhasa in 1995, along with three monks, including his younger brother, for distributing leaflets advocating Tibetan independence. In May 1997 all four were sentenced on charges of inciting counterrevolutionary propaganda. Dawa was identified as the 'ring-leader' and received the longest prison sentence, 18 years. His brother, Nyima Dhondup, received a 15 year sentence, and the other two monks, Mazo and Agya, each received eight year sentences. The period of detention was not included in the prison sentences.

Dawa, now 47, spent most of his incarceration in Chushul Prison. During the 2008 uprising in Tibet, Dawa was kept in solitary confinement for six months, as were other Tibetan political prisoners. In both 2002 and 2004 Dawa received sentence reductions, apparently for exhibiting good behaviour", totalling two years. He was therefore expected to be released in May 2013.

Further reading: TCHRD I RFA

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