PEN expressed serious concern today over reports that prison authorities in Xinjiang have refused to allow the jailed Uyghur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti to receive visits or support from his family members. His wife reported to Radio Free Asia that his older brother was turned away from the Urumqi No. 1 Prison, where Tohti is detained, and was not permitted to give him money or clothes. His attempt to bring him money in March was similarly denied.

Ilham was arrested in January 2014 and charged with “separatism” for his writings on Uyghur rights. In September, he was sentenced to life in prison. The winner of the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, Tohti has dedicated his life to promoting peaceful dialogue between China’s Uyghur minority and the Han Chinese population. He is in prison for exercising his right to free expression, and should be released immediately. Furthermore, PEN deplores his harsh treatment by prison authorities and demands that Tohti be allowed to see and receive support from his family members.