Morocco detains Uighur activist over Chinese terror warrant

Morocco detains Uighur activist over Interpol Chinese terror warrant: campaigners
3 min read
Activists fear that Uighur activist Yidiresi Aishan will be extradited to China. They say his detention is part of a Chinese effort to hunt down perceived dissidents abroad.
Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security said a Chinese citizen was arrested [Getty]

Moroccan authorities have arrested a Uighur 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.

Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security said on Tuesday that a Chinese citizen was arrested after landing at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca on 20 July, upon arrival from Istanbul.

He “was the subject of a red notice issued by Interpol due to his suspected belonging to an organization on the lists of terrorist organizations,” the Moroccan police agency said.

The red notice — the equivalent of being put on Interpol’s most-wanted list — was issued at the request of China, which is seeking his extradition, the agency said.

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It said Moroccan authorities notified Interpol and the Chinese authorities about the arrest, and the Chinese citizen was referred to prosecutors pending the extradition procedure.

Moroccan police didn't publicly name the arrested man, but nongovernmental organization Safeguard Defenders identified him as Aishan. The group specialises in cases of people detained by China.

Aishan, a 34-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, according to friend and colleague Yanmaymiz Ayup.

Aishan worked on a Uighur diaspora online newspaper and assisted other activists in media outreach and collecting testimonies of abuse in China’s Xinjiang province, the Uighur homeland.

After repeated arrests in Turkey, Aishan left Istanbul for Casablanca on the evening of 19 July, Ayup said. Aishan called his wife on Saturday and said he was being deported, according to Ayup, who is in touch with Aishan’s family.

Interpol and the Chinese Embassy in Morocco didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the arrest. The exact charges against him are unclear.

While China has claimed its sweeping lockup of a million or more Uighurs and members of other minority groups is a "war against terror", the United States and others have described what is happening in Xinjiang as a genocide. Researchers say many innocent people have been detained for things like going abroad or attending religious gatherings. The charges against China include tortureforced sterilisation and forced labour.

Safeguard Defenders has appealed to the Moroccan ambassadors in Washington and Brussels not to extradite Aishan. It is "not uncommon" for Chinese authorities to obtain Interpol red notices for Uighur and other dissidents abroad, said Peter Dahlin of Safeguard Defenders.

In a similar case, a Chinese teenager who says he’s a US permanent resident was arrested in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in April while transferring for a flight.

Chinese officials had sought Wang Jingyu, a 19-year-old student, over his online comments about deadly border clashes between Chinese and Indian forces last year. The US State Department called it a human rights concern. Wang was freed in May, and he and his fiancee fled to the Netherlands.

Experts say both cases feed into growing fears of extraterritorial reach by China.