Jigme Guri was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for "attempting to split the nation"
Tibetan monk and political prisoner Jigme Gyatso, also known as Jigme Guri or Jigme Labrang, has been released after serving five years in prison. He was released at 8:30pm local time on 26 October and has since returned home.
Jigme Guri, from Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Kanlho, eastern Tibet, was arrested on 20 August 2011 while visiting a cultural event in Tso City in Kanlho. Dozens of police and soldiers arrested him at his hotel and confiscated his computers and other property.
No reason was given for Jigme Guri’s arrest, although friends and colleagues believe it was related to a video that he recorded in 2008. In the video, which was uploaded to YouTube, Jigme Guri spoke about a previous arrest in which he was subjected to beatings and other forms of torture that left him unconscious and almost resulted in his death. In the video he also spoke about the wider crackdown in Tibet during the 2008 Tibetan Uprising.
(Credit: Tibet Network)
Jigme Guri was detained in a prison hospital under secrecy for three years before August 2014, when a court in Lanzhou, China, finally sentenced him to five years in prison for “inciting splittism”. He spent the next two years in Lanzhou’s Da Xing Ping Prison.
Jigme Guri's family were initially allowed to visit him for twenty minutes once a month. They were separated from him by a screen and had to communicate with him via a telephone. In January this year they were told they could no longer visit him. In March, they received a phone call from a judge at a Chinese court informing them that he had been transferred to the prison’s medical facility. His family asked officials for information about the reason for the hospital transfer but were not given any details except that the illness was not serious.
Jigme Guri, now 50, was originally scheduled to be released on 20 August 2016, exactly five years after his arrest. This date was pushed back to 26 October. According to a court decision, his family were to receive him at the gates of the local court. However, when the day of his release arrived he was instead returned home secretly during the night in a police vehicle.
He was warned during his release that he was forbidden to take any pictures or videos, make any form of announcement or receive the khata, the traditional Tibetan white scarf presented to people to welcome them or wish them good luck.
A request by his family to welcome him home by presenting him with a khata was also rejected by the Chinese authorities, who warned that Jigme Guri would not be released if the family and relatives did not comply with this condition. Jigme's mother and other members of his family ignored this warning.
Further conditions imposed on Jigme Guri included prohibiting him from wearing his robes and entering Labrang Monastery.
Jigme Guri was arrested several times prior to 2011. He was first detained in 2006 after attending a religious ceremony conducted by the Dalai Lama in India. In 2008 he was rearrested after a protest against the Chinese occupation, leading to his torture in police custody and him recording his video.
Jigme Guri has been released, but other Tibetans who have stood up to the Chinese occupation or challenged human rights abuses remain in prison. Add your voice to our Robed Resisters campaign to help Tibet's political prisoners.