Authorities imprisoned Azat and another journalist, Obul, in an apparent crackdown on managers of Uighur-language websites. Azat was sentenced to 10 years and Obul to three years on charges of endangering state security, according to international news reports. The Uyghur American Association reported that the pair were tried and sentenced in July 2010.
Their sites, which have been shut down by the government, had run news articles and discussion groups concerning Uighur issues. The New York Times cited friends and relatives of the men who said they were prosecuted because they had failed to respond quickly enough when they were ordered to delete content that discussed the difficulties of life in Xinjiang.
Obul’s three-year sentence should have been completed in 2013. Although prisoners in China are generally released at the completion of their sentence, CPJ was not able to confirm as of late 2014 that Obul had been freed-neither the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress nor the U.S.-based Congressional-Executive Commission of China have been able to confirm his release. Former prisoners in China are often ordered not to discuss their detention or are afraid to do so.
According to the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Azat’s whereabouts were unknown as of October 2014. As is the case with many Uighur prisoners, the government releases little information on where they are being held.