A Uyghur motorcycle repairman detained in a Xinjiang prison since 2017 for making a religious pilgrimage abroad died in jail and his body was delivered to his family in late April, people with knowledge of the situation said.
Memettursun Metniyaz, a resident of Maralbeshi county in Kashgar prefecture, was jailed in early 2017 for completing the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, years before.
He was 55-60 years old at the time of his death in April, according to a local residential committee member who oversaw the delivery of his body to his family.
Though the length of his sentence is unknown, Metniyaz’s detention occurred amid a larger crackdown on Uyghurs beginning in 2017 during which Chinese authorities arbitrarily detained both ordinary and prominent Uyghurs in “re-education” camps and prisons.
While researching information suggesting the release of prisoner corpses from Tumshuq Prison in Maralbeshi before the Eid al-Fitr holiday in late April, RFA learned that authorities discharged the body of Metniyaz about 40 days ago.
“He passed away due to diabetes while in prison,” the residential committee member said. “He was serving time in Tumshuq Prison for performing the hajj pilgrimage.”
Prison authorities transferred the prisoners’ bodies to police stations in various Maralbeshi townships, including Seriqbuya, about one week prior to Eid, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, said a source in Maralbeshi.
The residential committee employee contacted by RFA said she visited Metniyaz’s family about 40 days ago to monitor his funeral.
The delivery of the body created a stir in Seriqbuya town, witnesses said.
Police cars suddenly emerged and armed officers assigned to maintain security did not provide any explanation for their presence, prompting bewildered local merchants to clear the streets and enter their shops, a shopkeeper said.
“They told us not to stay outside,” the shop owner said. “Police cars were everywhere telling us not to gather in crowds and to go inside.”
The following day, residents learned that police had transferred Metniyaz’s body to a family living in the area.
A police officer in Maralbeshi said authorities distributed several prisoners’ bodies before Eid al-Fitr, though he did not know the number, the source or the cause of death.
Translated by the Uyghur Service. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcom Foster.