Dharamshala: Chinese authorities have released long serving political prisoner, 47 year old Tibetan Dawa Gyaltsen- who was serving and 18 year sentence, two years earlier than expected in a bid to avoid a detention related death.
Dawa Gyaltsen- a former bank accountant, who was first detained for distributing and posting Tibetan independence leaflets, was released sometime last month for "good behaviour", according to information received by exile Tibetan sources who have local contacts in Tibet.
As of yet there has been no statement from Chinese authorities regarding the early release of Dawa. However there has been speculation that the move was taken to avert the responsibility of him dying in their custody, according to Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).
Many Tibetan political prisoners have died due to torture related activities while detained; it is also not uncommon for them to die shortly after release.
Tibetan sources say that Dawa Gyaltsen, who spent the majority of his 17 year sentence in Chushul Prison, which is renowned for its brutal mistreatment and torture of political prisoners, is currently in said to be critical.
A former prison mate of Dawa's in Chushul, who now lives in India said that it is highly probable that he has been released due to ill health "Ten years ago when I was with him in the prison, I always saw him sick and confined to his cell."
Dawa Gyaltsen was detained along with his younger brother, a monk by the name Nyima Dhondup, as well as two more monks- Mazo and Agya, in 1995 for distributing "political documents" and "inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda."
The group were sentenced in May 1997, Dawa Gyaltsen-labelled as the ringleader was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. His brother, Nyima Dhondup received a sentence of 13 years and both Mazo and Aqya received eight years detention.
During the 2008 uprising in Tibet, Along with other prisoners such as Dolma Kyap and Tsering Wangchuck, Dawa Gyaltsen was kept in solitary confinement for around six months.
Prior to his sentencing, Dawa was subject to intense interrogation, beatings and torture in Seitru Detention Centre (Lhasa) for 14 months where, in 1997, he met Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue.
Tsundue who had been detained for "illegally" entering Tibet spoke of his encounter with Dawa Gyaltsen, and how he was mistreated by prison authorities during a deposition he filed on July 3 2006 in the Spanish National Court.
"Once he showed me his wrists. There were clear scars of torture- a ring of white scar tissue ran around his wrists. He told me that when he was first arrested he was handcuffed and thrown into a dark room without food for ten days. To keep him alive, the jailors would splash water on him once a day. The handcuffs tightened around his wrists. They ate into his flesh, forming sores, and puss. After 10 days when they unlocked the shackles, the metal rings ripped off skin from his wrist. He said he was not given medical attention and it took many months for the sores to heal."
Dawa Gyaltsen was born in Shentsa County in Nagchu Prefecture in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in central Tibet. Preceding his arrest he worked as a clerk-cum-accountant at a bank in Nagchu and was married with two children.