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Tibetan imprisoned following self-immolation freed after 2.5 years

August 25, 2014

August 20, 2014 - A Tibetan monk linked to a self-immolation protest in China’s Qinghai province was freed from prison this week after serving his term and was warmly received by supporters on his return home despite authorities’ insistence that no celebrations be held, sources said.

Damchoe Tsultrim, aged 42, was among 10 Tibetans arrested in February 2012 following the self-immolation protest of Damchoe Sangpo, a monk at the Bongtak monastery in Themchen (in Chinese, Tianjun) county in the Tsonub (Haixi) Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.

Tsultrim was released on Tuesday after serving his full term of two and a half years in prison, and was quickly taken by authorities from a detention center in the provincial capital Xining to his native village, Kharmang, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“[Chinese] authorities warned that no welcoming receptions of any kind were to be held for him,” the source said. “But monks, relatives, and other people gathered in large numbers after he returned home and celebrated his return by offering ceremonial scarves and other gifts.”

“At this time, he appears to be in good health, but it is unclear if he will be allowed to rejoin his monastery,” the source said.

Suspected of involvement

Tsultrim was among a group of 20 Tibetans detained, with 10 later formally arrested and charged, on suspicion of involvement in the self-immolation death of Bongtak monastery monk Damchoe Sangpo on Feb. 17, 2012, RFA’s source said.

The 10 who were charged, including Tsultrim and eight other monks and one layperson, were later sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 10 years, the source said.

One monk, Geshe Khedrup Gyatso, was handed a 10-year term, while another, Sangye Gyatso, received a nine-year term, the source said, adding, “Kalsang Jamsem, who was sentenced to eight years, is being held at a prison in Xining, where he is forced to work at the prison’s brick factory.”

Damchoe Sangpo’s protest was the 22nd of the now 131 self-immolations committed to date by Tibetans protesting Chinese policies and rule in Tibetan areas of China.

He had objected to the cancelling by Chinese authorities of a traditional prayer festival held by the monastery and to the presence at the monastery of Chinese security forces, sources said at the time.

Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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