Kunchok Tsephel

Kunchok Tsephel, founder of popular Tibetan literary website, Chodme or Butter Lamp, was detained on February 26 2009 when his home was searched by the Chinese authorities.

His computer, mobile phone and other belongings were seized, and his website, which promotes Tibetan culture and literature, was shut down.

He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2009.

Kunchok's self-funded website, set up in 2005, is a joint venture with the poet Kyabchen Dedrol and has been closed on various occasions by the Chinese authorities.

Secret trial

Kungchok's friends and family heard nothing of his whereabouts until November 12, when they were called in to hear the verdict of the Intermediate People's Court in Kanlho, who sentenced him for 'divulging state secrets'.

It was not revealed what these secrets were and the trial was conducted behind closed doors.

Torture fears

Friends at the sentencing reported that he appeared to be in poor health.

Kungchok had also been detained in 1995 when he was accused of being involved in political activities - he was tortured but released without charge after two months.

There are now serious concerns about his wellbeing, and also that of his sick daughter, who depends on his income.

One of his friends said "His family endured nine months of agonising waiting after Kunchok disappeared in February... He has been denied access to a lawyer."

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