A year after his arrest in Morocco, Uyghur activist Idris Hasan fears extradition to China

A year after his arrest in Morocco, Uyghur activist Idris Hasan fears extradition to China
5 min read
21 July, 2022
Morocco seemed a safer place for Idris. It was not. A request to cancel the extradition decision was recently rejected by the Moroccan court, according to Idris' lawyer.
"Fears of extradition, execution, and torture, are always there," said the activist's lawyer. [Getty]

After a year of his arrest at the Casablanca airport, the fate of the Uyghur activist Idris Hasan, also known as Yidiresi Aishan, remains shrouded in ambiguity.

"Last time I visited him, two months ago, he was physically and mentally well. However, fears of extradition, execution, and torture, are always there," said Lkbir Lmseguem, the activist's lawyer, to The New Arab.

On the night of 19-20  July 2021, Hasan was arrested at Casablanca airport arriving on a flight from Turkey, where the activist had lived with his family since 2012. 

The 34-year-old activist was arrested based on a red notice issued by Interpol at China's request "for belonging to a terrorist organisation." 

In December 2021, Rabat's Court of Cassation issued a favourable opinion on the extradition request, despite Interpol's August 2021 cancellation of the red notice issued against Idris.

The red notice was cancelled because it violated Idris' status as an applicant for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since the Moroccan court's decision, the issuance of an extradition decree by the Moroccan prime minister is the only step separating Idris from being sent to China where he can face torture, 45 human rights organisations warned.

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Morocco's prime minister Aziz Akhannouch, whose signature would decide Idris' fate, has never spoken on the case.

On 6 January, Mustapha Baitass, the spokesperson of the Moroccan government, said that Morocco "strictly respect all legal procedures and procedures, including the appeals that it allows."

"At the same time, the country [Morocco] respects the international obligations and the agreements it signed," he added in the first and last official comment regarding Idris' case.

The activist's lawyer said the extradition decision was frozen upon a request from the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) to the Moroccan authorities late in 2021.

"The Moroccan authorities were instructed not to extradite the activist to China while his request is under consideration by the Committee," explained Hasan's lawyer in his statement to The New Arab.

Idris's case remains pending before the UN Committee, which has yet to issue a final decision.

A new request to cancel the extradition decision was rejected by the Moroccan court recently, according to Lmseguem. "I don't know the reasons [of rejection] yet," added the lawyer.

Lmseguem also noted that the issuance of an extradition decree will contradict Morocco's obligations as a signatory of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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"No State Party shall expel, return ("refoulement") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture," states Article 3 of the convention.

Today, staying at Tiflet prison, 153 kilometres from Casablanca, the activist spends his time reading books, yearning to meet his family, and waiting for an obscure fate, said his brother Zikrullah.

"He calls us from the prison from time to time. He says he is doing good, reading books in jail. He is missing his family. But we are still waiting [for a final decision]. We are worried," said Zikrullah, who is currently based in Turkey.

Hasan's wife and children continue to live in Turkey.

Idris' struggles started in 2008.

A 20-old-student at the time, Hasan and four of his fellow students were beaten by local police for "looking suspicious" while hanging out in an ethnic Han majority Chinese city.

Hasan's refusal to ignore this unjust incident was not to the liking of Chinese authorities.

His online writings and interviews with US media about the injustice against the Uyghurs made him a frequent target for police interrogations.

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In 2012, he left China for Turkey hoping to build a life free of regular arrests. His wife joined him a year later.

The couple lived in Istanbul after getting a permit to stay in Turkey on humanitarian grounds.

When living in Turkey, Hasan continued his activism. He reportedly provided translation assistance to other Uyghurs in exile and helped collect testimonies on human rights violations in Xinjiang.

There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang.

Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls "re-education camps".

Hundreds of thousands were sentenced to prison terms.

During his nine-year stay in Istanbul, his brother says, Turkish authorities detained Idris at least four times as his name figured on a wanted list provided by China.

Due to the regular arrests, Idris decided to leave Turkey in 2021 as he feared being extradited to China.

Morocco seemed a safer place for Idris. It was not.

Tens of Uyghur Muslims who fled and sought refuge in MENA countries have been arrested and deported, said a report published by BBC in 2020.

Meanwhile, thousands of Uyghurs in exile, continue to live in distress, fearing Beijing's reach.

MENA leaders have so far remained silent on Beijing's crackdown on its Uyghur Muslim minority.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia, which images itself as the defender of Muslims across the world and protector of Islam's two holiest shrines, supported China's right to undertake "anti-terrorism" and "de-extremism" measures "to safeguard national security".

In the same year, Qatar withdrew from a multilateral letter it had signed in support of China’s actions against the Muslim Uyghur minority. 

Political experts argue that MENA's leaders are not ready to risk losing Chinese economic, political, and military assistance over standing for the Uyghurs.