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Tibetan filmmaker temporarily released from prison
Phayul[Saturday, October 18, 2008 19:33]
By Phurbu Thinley

Dharamsala, October 18: Jigme Gyatso, who assisted filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen for taping interviews with Tibetans in Tibet about their lives under Chinese government rule, has been temporarily released and placed under probation after being held for nearly seven months, their production company, based in Switzerland, disclosed today.

Jigme Gyatso, 39, assisted Dhondup Wangchen in filming "Leaving Fear Behind" (File photo/Filming for Tibet)
Jigme Gyatso, 39, assisted Dhondup Wangchen in filming "Leaving Fear Behind" (File photo/Filming for Tibet)
Jigme Gyatso, also known as "Golog Jigme", was temporarily released from Kachu (in Chinese: Linxia) prison on October 15, 2008, a statement released by the production company, Filming for Tibet, said.

According to the statement, the 39-year old Buddhist monk is now back to his Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Gansu Province.

The statement, however, said it was not clear from the information received from Tibet if all charges against Jigme had been dismissed. “He was told by the authorities that he will stay under observance and his probation will last one year,” it said.

Chinese police in the western province of Qinghai (Amdo) arrested Jigme and Wangchen in March 2008, shortly after they sent footage filmed in Tibet to the production company, which is headed by a relative of Wangchen.

A 25-minute film titled "Jigdrel," or "Leaving Fear Behind," was produced from the footage and is available online. The film was intended to shed light on the lives of Tibetans in China in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Dhondup Wangchen, 34, is still in detention and there is no news on his pending trial (File Photo/Dreaming for Tibet)
Dhondup Wangchen, 34, is still in detention and there is no news on his pending trial (File Photo/Dreaming for Tibet)
Wangchen and Jigme traveled to remote corners in the eastern region of Amdo and across the Tibetan plateau from October 2007 to March 2008 filming over thirty five hours of interviews. The tapes were transported in March 2008 to Switzerland, where Wangchen's cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin put the final cut together.

The film features twenty ethnic Tibetans; their views on the Beijing Olympics, the present situation inside the country and the return of the Dalai Lama.

Following his release, the statement said, Jigme Gyatso told sources that he was severely tortured after his arrest in March 2008. The interrogators beat him continuously and hanged him by his feet from the ceiling for hours and kept him tied for days on the interrogation chair. During the interrogations he fainted several times due to the beatings. After May 12 when the region was shaken by strong earthquakes beatings stopped and after August 11 there was a noticeable improvement.

According to the statement, a big crowd of fellow monks and nearby Tibetans gave Jigme an emotional welcome upon his arrival at Labrang Tashikyil monastery on October 15.

“According to sources in Tibet who were present, the crowd cheered him and thanked him for filming the documentary ‘Leaving Fear Behind’", the statement said.

Jigme Gyatso was born in 1969 in Golog Serta, in the Kardze region of Kham (in Chinese: Ganzi, Sichuan province).

Tenzin Lushol, another monk from Labrang, arrested for activities not in connection with the filming, was also released from Kachu prison and accompanied Jigme Gyatso to Labrang, the statement said.

However, Dhondup Wangchen is still in detention, and the statement said there was no news on his pending trial.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday condemned the detention of the two filmmakers and said information about their arrests have not been formally acknowledged by Chinese authorities.

For more information, contact: Gyaljong Tsetrin (Tibetan/Chinese) +41 76 462 67 68
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