Dharamshala: - Seventeen years after his imprisonment, popular Tibetan activist Jigme Gyatso has been freed. He was initially jailed for seeking independence for Tibet and calling for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
Released from Chusul prison which is near Tibet’s capital Lhasa, Jigme Gyatso, 52, a Buddhist monk, returned to his home in Sangchu County, Gansu province’s Kanlho, Tibet. Sources say that his condition is “very weak”.
The leader of the Association of Tibetan Freedom Movement, Jigme Gyatso was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in prison on charges of endangering national security and being a "counter-revolutionary ring leader".
In 2004, Chinese Authorities added a further three years to his sentence for “inciting separatism”; Gyatso had shouted in prison for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His release date was not due until March 2014.
Human rights groups worldwide have campaigned on behalf of him; among these is Amnesty International who designated him as a prisoner of conscience.
Chinese authorities have been accused of beating and torturing Gyatso whilst he was imprisoned, he had been hospitalised for an unknown period during his stay there. In one of Amnesty’s reports it says that a year into his sentence, Gyatso was beaten so badly that he could barely walk.
"After he was released from prison, Jigme Gyatso was ordered to leave for his hometown and reached his hometown on April 1 with a police escort," a source has revealed.
Jigme Gyatso's friend, Jamyang Tsultrim, who is living in exile in India and who cited local contacts said “Those who saw him reported that he was very weak. He was limping and reported having heart problems and high blood pressure. His vision was also weak.” Gyatso’s vision is weak due to his imprisonment in a dark room for a long time. It has also been reported that he is suffering from kidney problems.
In May 1998 an incident coincided with a visit to the prison by a European Union Delegation. A group of prisoners, of whom Jigme Gyatso was a part, shouted slogans that were pro His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Prison staff responded in a violent manner, after the incident nine inmates were reported dead.
During his visit to China in November 2005 the UN Special Rappourter on Torture met with him, following this he appealed to the Chinese authorities for Gyatso’s release.
In response to this the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made a statement saying that his detention was arbitrary and therefore violated his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
A report in 2009 by the World Organisation Against Torture, a large coalition of non-governmental organizations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and other forms of violence, stated that Jigme Gyatso had become "very frail," suffered from kidney dysfunction, and could "only walk with his back bent."
In 2011 Amnesty said that he was suspected to be "seriously ill as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody."
Jigme Gyatso’s mother died whilst he was imprisoned.