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’s 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