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A Tibetan man blinded and sentenced to four years' in jail in Ngaba

February 2, 2009

31 January 2009 [Press Release]

The Intermediate People's Court of Ngaba County in Sichuan province
sentenced a Tibetan to four years' jail term for spearheading protests
in Ngaba County last year, according to confirmed information received
by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) from
reliable sources.

A 33-year-old, Choephel of Urjamtsang family, Unit No. 2, Meruma
Township, Ngaba County, Ngaba "Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture"('TAP')
Sichuan Province, who was involved in March 15, 16 and 17 protests in
Ngaba County last year was sentenced to four years' jail term by the
Ngaba County Intermediate People's Court on 4 November 2008.The court
original sentence of ten years' jail term to Choephel was later commuted
to four years' term on the ground of his clean past record, according to
the source. The Intermediate People's Court of Ngaba County convicted
Choephel on alleged crimes of leading protest, looting and ransacking
County Public Security Bureau (PSB) office and burning national flag in
a series of protests that took place in Ngaba County last spring.

According to sources, "Following a massive protest in Meruma Township in
Ngaba County on 17 March 2008 which was participated by hundreds of
Tibetans, the County PSB officers in a sudden raid stormed into
Choephel's home to detain him. He was beaten black and blue with rifle
butts resulting in a serious injuries to his left eye, head and limps.
However, he managed to ran and flee towards a hill adjacent to his unit
where he went into hiding for few days before returning home. However,
on 4 April the PSB officials in a surprise raid arbitrarily detained him
from his home. For four months Choephel's family members were not able
to trace his whereabouts despite frantic searches and phone calls to
local offices. Later at the end of August 2008, family members learnt
about his detention at Barkham County PSB Detention Centre. They even
sent clothes, eatables and written message to him but were unsure
whether those items reach him or not. Even his father, Urjam, was
subjected to rigorous interrogation at Meruma Township Police station
after the detention of Choephel."

"On the evening of 3 November 2008, Choephel family received a phone
call from Ngaba County PSB office informing family members about the
court trial the next day. The family members, relatives and friends went
to the Ngaba County Intermediate People's Court for the hearing the next
day, however, only two persons were allowed inside the courtroom. The
verdict was read out by the chief judge and convicted Choephel on
alleged charges of leading the protest, ransacking and looting county
PSB office and burning national flag. The court's original verdict of
ten years' jail term to Choephel was later commuted to four years' on
the ground of his clean past record," sources added.

"Finally on 19 January 2009, the family members were allowed to meet
Choephel after seeking permission from the local police station and
enquiring about the exact location of his detention. They were told to
communicate only in Chinese and not in their mother tongue through a
barricaded glass separating them. No clothes or eatables were allowed to
offer except for the cash. Choephel is known to have been blinded his
left eye from the injuries he sustained during security forces assault
on 17 March raid at his home," sources described. Choephel is known to
have been taken to a distant Menyang court, about 200 Kms outside the
provincial capital, Chengdu.

The Centre has documented numerous cases of Tibetans having handed heavy
and harsh prison terms for their participation in the 2008 protests in
Tibet. In many cases the sentencing and whereabouts of the people come
to light months after their detention or disappearance.

The TCHRD strongly condemns the sentencing of Choephel as his freedom of
opinion and expression does not violate any of the constitutional
components of Chinese law.The Centre also expresses it deepest concern
and condemns the authorities' use of brute force on Choephel which
blinded his left eye and detaining incommunicado for a long period of
time. The Centre questions the transparency of the legal proceeding as
trial was held behind the closed door without any legal representative
of his choice.

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