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China upset as Interpol removes wanted alert for exiled Uighur leader

China expressed dissatisfaction on Saturday at Interpol's decision to lift a wanted alert for an exile from its Uighur minority, a man China accuses of being a terrorist.

Uighurs are a largely Muslim people who live in the far western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of people have died in the past few years, mostly in unrest between its 10 million Uighurs and the ethnic majority Han Chinese.

China has blamed much of the unrest on separatist Islamist militants. Rights groups and exiles say anger over tightening Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Uighurs is more to blame.

The London-based rights group Fair Trials said Interpol had confirmed it had deleted a wanted alert, known as a red notice, for Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress. A red notice is an international alert for a wanted person but is not an international arrest warrant.

"China expresses its dissatisfaction at Interpol revoking the red notice for Dolkun Isa," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Dolkun Isa is a terrorist as determined by the Chinese government."

China had full, cast-iron proof of criminality for the issuing of the red notice by Interpol, it added, saying it would have further communication with Interpol on the matter.

In a statement to Reuters, Interpol said it did not comment on specific cases except in special circumstances and with approval of the member country concerned.

"With regard to your request in relation to this individual, we would advise you to contact the authorities which you believe had requested a red notice," it said.

Fair Trials quoted Isa, a German national since 2006, as saying the red notice should not have been issued.

"Such a serious allegation from any state must be thoroughly scrutinized to determine its legitimacy - something that was regrettably not done here," he said.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said the accusations against Isa were purely political.

"China is unable to produce any actual evidence of its accusations against him," he said in a statement.

Isa, a former Xinjiang student activist, says he condemns all terrorism.

Diplomatic sources have previously told Reuters that China frequently asks European countries to arrest Isa, but has never provided evidence of the crimes it says he has committed.

In 2016, Interpol, the international police organization, elected a senior Chinese public security official, Meng Hongwei, as president, prompting concern among rights groups that China could use the position to its advantage, something China and Interpol have denied.

[Source: Reuters, Beijing, 24Feb18]

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