Indonesia deported a Uyghur terror convict in July after he served his sentence, police revealed without saying where he was sent amid fears that he was expelled to China which, the United Nations says, represses Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Ahmet Bozoglan, 35, who was convicted in 2015, had a Turkish passport when he was arrested in Poso, a regency in Central Sulawesi province, the year before.
Bozoglan had been incarcerated on the penal island of Nusa Kambangan off Java, said Aswin Siregar, senior commissioner with the Densus 88 anti-terror unit at the Indonesian national police.
“[Bozoglan] was released on July 1 and was deported,” Aswin told BenarNews.
When asked where Bozoglan was deported to, he replied: “Please ask the relevant authorities.”
Ahmad Nursaleh, spokesman for the directorate general of immigration, did not immediately respond to questions from BenarNews about Bozoglan’s whereabouts.
The Uyghur man’s former lawyer, Faris, confirmed that he was released on July 1, but said he did not know where Bozoglan was expelled to.
“We are no longer representing him,” Faris, who goes by one name, told BenarNews.
Three other Uyghur men who were released from Indonesian custody in September 2020 were believed to have been deported to China after Beijing allegedly paid fines imposed on them by the court, two security researchers had told BenarNews back then.
One of the researchers had got the information from sources at the prison where the men had been held, he said. Those three Uyghur men, too, had Turkish passports when they were arrested alongside Bozoglan.
Moh Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization (PAKAR) said Bozoglan had likely been deported to China.
“Looking at the previous case, it doesn’t seem to be different,” Adhe told BenarNews.
Adhe added that the Indonesian government had offered the men released in 2020 to the Turkish government, but Ankara was “reluctant.”
“Perhaps China managed to show that they are Chinese citizens, so the Indonesian government finally sent them back to China,” Adhe said.
BenarNews contacted the Turkish and Chinese embassies in Jakarta, but received no prompt response.
A U.N. report in June said China’s repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in its western Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The report said that “serious human rights violations” had been committed in XUAR in the context of the Chinese government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies.
Authorities in the region are believed to have held close to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.
Bozoglan and the three other Uyghurs were sentenced to between six and eight years in prison and fined 100 million rupiah (U.S. $6,600) by a Jakarta court in 2015 after being found guilty of entering the country using fake passports and attempting to join the Islamic State-affiliated Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militant group based in Poso.
At the time, MIT had sworn allegiance to Islamic State extremist group and welcomed foreign mujahideen to join them.
‘They will most likely be executed’
Andreas Harsono, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch who accompanied the four Uyghurs during their trial, feared the worst for the former convicts.
“They should not have been deported to China because they will most likely be executed. We don’t believe the legal system there is fair,” Andreas told BenarNews.
“We have conveyed this to the Indonesian government, but there has been no answer.”
In a 2020 interview, Bozoglan had expressed fear that, like the other three Uyghurs, he would be deported to China after completing his prison sentence.
“I’m just someone who ended up getting detained in Indonesia while looking for a way to get to Turkey, and so I’m asking for help to go to Turkey or Europe or another place to seek asylum so that I am not returned to China,” Bozoglan told Radio Free Asia (RFA), an online news service affiliated with BenarNews.
“My friends’ six-year sentences were up, but they were going to have to stay an extra six months as a fine for problems with their passports. China paid the six months of fees and then sent the three of them back home.”
Lawyers for the four Uyghurs said they were Turkish nationals on holiday in Indonesia, but prosecutors argued they held fake Turkish passports and were on their way to meet MIT leader Santoso, who was Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist at that time. Santoso was gunned down in a counter-terrorism manhunt in July 2016.
Bozoglan said his three Uyghur comrades were forced to sign documents acknowledging that their fines had been paid and that, later, they overheard the head of their prison telling guards that the Chinese embassy had footed the bill and “planned to take them to China.”
After being detained in September 2014, Bozoglan said that Chinese authorities – including Uyghur police and embassy officials – showed up on multiple occasions and accused them of being “black coats,” or terrorists.