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Former Tibetan political prisoner served with 12 years prison term

The Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court has sentenced Sonam Gyalpo, 44, to twelve years in jail on charges of “endangering state security”, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). He is currently imprisoned at Chushul (Ch: Qushui) Prison located in the west of Lhasa City.

Prior to the sentencing, which reportedly took place around mid 2006, he was held in detention at Seitru Detention Centre (“TAR” PSB Detention Centre). Sonam’s family appealed to the High Court to reconsider the sentence but to no avail.

In September last year, Chinese authorities in Tibet celebrated the 40th founding anniversary of the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) with much pomp and glamour. In the run up to the event, Tibetans with political incident backgrounds were rounded up for detention, investigation and expulsion from Lhasa to ensure a smooth celebration. Chinese secret service (Ch: Ang jang jue) officers ransacked houses of Tibetan suspects deemed to be carrying out political activities during the event. Reportedly the officers discovered “incriminating” evidence in Sonam’s home in the form of four videotapes containing teachings of the Dalai Lama, few political literatures and pictures of the Dalai Lama. After being led away by the secret service officers on 28 August 2005, whereabouts of Sonam remained unknown until the latest information about him being imprisoned in Chushul Prison.

A former monk at the Drepung Monastery, Sonam Gyalpo was among 21 monks who initiated the popular political demonstration in Lhasa on 27 September 1987. He was then charged of “counter-revolutionary” activities and imprisoned for three years in the notorious Drapchi Prison. Thereafter, in 1993 he was detained for a period of one year in Shigatse Nyari Detention Centre and Sangyip Prison in Lhasa serving six months in both.

TCHRD urges the government of “TAR” to release Sonam Gyalpo immediately and to stop violating fundamental human rights of the Tibetans. The Centre calls upon the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to intervene upon the unlawful imprisonment of Sonam Gyalpo.

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