Respected Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment on 23 September 2014 on the charge of “separatism”. Although his trial took place in secret, it is believed his sentencing is a result of his views about the situation of Uighurs in China, expressed both online and in his teachings. To mark the second anniversary of his detention on 15 January 2016, an open letter directed towards the Chinese authorities has been signed by 400 academics from around the world. This letter calls for Ilham Tohti’s immediate and unconditional release, and urges that the right to academic freedom is respected.
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