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Turkey says it won't deport Uighurs to China despite extradition agreement

At least a million Uighur Muslims are thought to be held in Chinese camps [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 December, 2020

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China ratified an extradition treaty with Turkey last week, sparking fears among the Uighur exile community.
Turkey's foreign minister has said the country will not deport Uighurs to China amid fears a new extradition agreement between the two nations could put the persecuted Muslim minority at risk.

"Until now, there have been requests for returns from China related to Uighurs in Turkey. And you know Turkey hasn't taken steps like this," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state news agency Anadolu.

The extradition treaty ratified by Beijing this weekend will not change that, Cavusoglu added.

The extradition agreement has sparked major concern in Turkey's 50,000-strong Uighur community.

Turkey is the world's largest host of Uighur Muslims outside of China, where the minority community has faced increasing repression in recent years.

At least a million Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group which shares linguistic and cultural ties with Turkey, are thought to be held in detention camps in the northwest province of Xinjiang.

Chinese authorities are accused of subjecting Uighurs and other Muslim minorities to indoctrination, forced labour, torture and forced birth control among other abuses.

Beijing rejects those claims and insists the detention camps are instead re-education centres that aim to steer Muslim minorities away from extremism and separatism.

Turkey and China signed the extradition treaty in 2017 but it was not ratified by Beijing until late last week.

The Turkish parliament has not yet formally ratified the deal.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based Uighur World Congress, told the AFP that Beijing was economically pressuring Ankara to ratify the treaty.

Some media reports have tied the issue to the delayed delivery of a Chinese-produced Covid-19 vaccine shipment to Turkey.

Although Ankara says it does not deport vulnerable Uighur Muslims, some activists have accused Turkey of deporting wanted Uighurs to third countries, such as Tajikistan, from where they can then be extradited by China.

Turkish officials have rejected those claims as well.

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