By Tenzin Monlam
Akhu Gyatak Photo-TCHRD
DHARAMSHALA, DEC. 8: The Chinese authorities earlier this month released a former Tibetan village leader upon completion his four-year prison term. Akhu Gyatak, in his mid 60s, was arrested in 2012 with charges of ‘inciting secession’.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, he was brought by local security officials to his home in Dowa Township in Rebkong County in Malho Prefecture. Since the family members were warned of severe consequences, they chose not to share information about his release due to fear of retaliations.
The report, however, does not mention the current physical condition of Gyatak after his release.
Gyatak was arrested during the widespread protests against the Chinese authorities in Rebkong in November 2012 against the official’s apathy towards rising numbers of self-immolation protest in the region. November 2012 alone has reported 24 self-immolations and protests by thousands of Tibetans, including by school students in Chabcha and in Rebkong.
He had taken responsibility for organizing peaceful demonstrations after a series of self-immolations in the area, perhaps to protect other younger people from imprisonment, sources say.
The Malho Intermediate People’s Court on February 8, 2013 sentenced him under the charge of discussing ‘Tibetan independence’ at the home of a Tibetan self-immolator, an act that is considered as ‘incitement to split the motherland’.
He and many other Tibetans had visited the families of self-immolators only to console them and to offer butter lamps and donations as per the Tibetan custom.
The propaganda department of the province claimed the presence of around 100 Tibetans including Gyatak’s relatives during the trial. However, it is not clear whether he was provided legal representation or not.