Award-Winning Mongolian Environmentalist Gets 21 Years for ‘Terrorism’

Harsh sentence is the latest blow for Mongolia's green movement, which is struggling to contain environmental damage from mining

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Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Trucks carry coal along a paved road leading to the border with China in the South Gobi Desert, Mongolia, on June 6, 2013

Mongolian environmental activist Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, who was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2007 for his campaign to protect water sources from mining pollution, was sentenced on Jan. 21 together with four associates to 21 years in prison for “acts of terrorism.”

Munkhbayar was arrested on Sept. 16 when attending a protest during which a firearm was discharged. Security officials also allegedly found an explosive device in a nearby building.

While not condoning violence, the Goldman Prize states that “it is widely understood that the shot was not fired on purpose and nobody was injured.”

Media reports referenced by Asia Correspondent said that Munkhbayar had brought a gun and inactive grenades to the protest.

The website spoke to Enkhbat Toochog of the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, who said: “Munkhbayar’s actions highlighted the desperation of helpless Mongolian pastoralists, who had no choice but to resort to an unconventional approach to defend their land, rights and way of life after exhausting all other means.”

Mongolia has some of the world’s largest undeveloped mineral reserves, including gold, copper, coal and uranium. Thanks to efforts by Munkhbayar and the alliance of environmentalists that he set up, mining companies agreed to limit their pollution of rivers as well as the displacement of local herders.

However, following an economic downturn and a change of government in 2012, the advances Munkhbayar managed to push through have been rolled back. In September, the government agreed to a partnership with French company Areva to revive uranium exploration in the Gobi Desert, which activists claim has led to death and deformities among livestock.

[Asia Correspondent, Rivers Without Boundaries, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center]

16 comments
ascadian.devil
ascadian.devil

You read something like this in the media and it looks like he is innocent. But the fact is he and his half a dozen goons had semi-automatic rifles and an IED. Also the article for some reason fails to mention how he shot at miners (keep in mind, the miners, not the owners of the mines), and his little racketeering side business: You pay him money, he won't bother your mine, you don't pay, he and his goons rough up/shoot your miners, and in all cause negative publicity. I am all for preserving our beautiful nature, but this guy is a criminal. I am glad no one got hurt by that IED.

VincentKhan
VincentKhan

Mongolia has a deeply corrupted police and justice. Torture is widely spread in Mongolian prison and there is police impunity as well as impunity for crimes againsts foreigners. Behind the green land of nomads, there is a nationalist country, a nuclear wasteland countryside and the worst polluted city in the world as a capital city... So much for those for still see Mongolia as this nomadic paradise broadcasted on television. As an expat living there for a while, i know those things for a fact...

BaraaTiger
BaraaTiger

it is a one of simple argument of injustice of the verdict in Mongolia. I feel shame for judgement.

Vanya Seiss
Vanya Seiss

Thank you for the post. It is hard to get enough accurate information on this situation. The long term contract players in this are very good at the shell and pea games. The transition from the traditional to the post modern day life is not a story that gives big headlines without the elements of violence or Sex.

Siddhartha Banerjee
Siddhartha Banerjee

Horrible horrible subscription from Time in Mumbai..missed 4 issues till now...the issue for Dec 23 got delivered today after complaining last week!

Jeff Parks
Jeff Parks

Yet another tragic story - one after another these days! :(

Rikka Lisa Marie Seibert
Rikka Lisa Marie Seibert

if it is proven he and associates planted grenade and brought firearms (if illegal), then he went too far in his passion to do what is right. I question the charges considering recent moves to further land, water and air exploitation practices for oligarchs but wish I knew what was truth here. Well aware of bogus charges to silence the do gooders speaking out.

Marcus Müller
Marcus Müller

That demonstrates, who defines what is terrorism.

richardlsawyer
richardlsawyer

Terrorism: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal


Planting bombs and firing guns to prove a political point is pretty much the definition of terrorism.