A popular Tibetan activist has been freed after serving 17 years in prison with hard labor for seeking independence for Tibet and calling for the long life of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, according to a Tibetan source.
Jigme Gyatso, 52, a former monk, appeared “very weak” when he returned Monday to his home after being released from Chushul prison near Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Saturday.
Jigme Gyatso, who was the leader of the Association of Tibetan Freedom Movement, was sentenced in 1996 to 15 years in prison on charges of being a “counter-revolutionary ringleader” and endangering national security.
The Chinese authorities added three more years to his sentence in 2004 for “inciting separatism” when he shouted in prison for the long life of Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in Dharamsala.
A year after he was sentenced, he was beaten so badly that he could barely walk afterwards, Amnesty said in one of its reports. He was also hospitalized for an unknown period during his imprisonment.
“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,” the Tibetan source 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,” Jigme Gyatso’s friend, Jamyang Tsultrim, who lives in exile in Switzerland.
In May 1998, Jigme Gyatso was among a group of prisoners in Lhasa’s Drapchi prison who began shouting pro- Dalai Lama slogans, prompting a violent response from prison staff which resulted in the death of nine inmates, reports had said.