"--IANS/EFE"
Beijing, June 27 (IANS/EFE) Chinese authorities denied food for 10 days to Uyghur intellectual Ilham Tohti who is awaiting trial after the government slapped separatism charges against him, his lawyer Wang Yu said Friday.

He is keeping well, but has lost 16 kgs since his arrest, the lawyer told Efe after visiting Tohti Thursday for the first time since he was detained in mid-January.

Tohti, a prominent Muslim acamedician of Uyghur ethnicity, has championed Uyghur rights in the Xinjiang region and has criticised the Chinese regime, but has never advocated for an independent Xinjiang.

The 44-year-old Tohti was arrested in January when China stepped up security in Xinjiang to root out alleged terrorist acts in the region.

The violence has soured in Xinjiang in past some years between the people of Han ethinicity - also the majority in the country - and Uyghurs.

Tohti insists on his innocence arguing that whatever he has said or done is in the interest of the country and Han ethnicity. He has never favoured separatism, only wishes for the betterment of Xinjiang, and that the relations among different communities are cordial, a second lawyer of Tohti, Li Fangping, said.

Li and Wang Thursday discovered that Tohti was denied food for the last 10 days as he protested against the halal meat served to him, Wang said.

After his hunger strike was over, the authorities suddenly stopped giving food to him, the lawyer told.

The same day he was arrested, the Kunming rail station in the southern China was attacked by a group, allegedly Uyghurs, leaving 26 people dead and 143 injured.

He was given only a glass of water. He survived on that only, Li said, adding that the police had him shackled for a month.

The lawyers expressed concern that the recent separatist attacks might jeopardise his case.

Since last year, the Xinjiang conflict has spread to other regions, reaching even Beijing, where a vehicle ran over a crowd at the gates of the Forbidden City killing five and injuring many others.

The government has blamed the sudden surge of violence to the terrorist cells active in Xinjiang region and other allied groups, while the Uyghurs have accused government of using terrorism as a pretext to carry out oppressionist measures in the region.

--IANS/EFE

ab/vm


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