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China sentences four to death over Xinjiang attacks

18 september 2011, 18:18
0
Ethnic Uighur women (R) clash with Chinese riot police as they protest in Urumqi. ©AFP
Ethnic Uighur women (R) clash with Chinese riot police as they protest in Urumqi. ©AFP
China sentenced to death four members of the Uighur minority over deadly attacks in restive Xinjiang, state media said Thursday, but activists alleged the condemned had not received a fair trial, AFP reports.

Two others were jailed for 19 years over the wave of violence in July in the northwestern region, whose mainly Muslim Uighur minority has long chafed against Chinese rule.

The four were sentenced Wednesday after being found guilty of setting up and running terrorist organisations, illegally making explosives, murder and arson, according to a news website run by the Xinjiang government.

The jailed duo were accomplices, said the report on www.tianshannet.com.cn -- the details of which were confirmed to AFP by Xinjiang government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin.

The court action relates to three deadly assaults in Xinjiang in July that left dozens of people dead and prompted authorities to dispatch an elite police counter-terrorism unit to the region in a fresh crackdown.

Beijing has blamed much of Xinjiang's unrest on the "three forces" of extremism, separatism and terrorism and said Pakistan-trained Muslim separatists were behind one of the latest attacks.

But some experts doubt that terror cells operate in Xinjiang, where Uighurs are Sunni and practise a moderate form of Islam.

A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress -- a Germany-based exile group -- said in an email that the suspects had not received a fair trial.

"They were severely tortured in custody and local authorities deprived them of their right to choose their own lawyers," said Dilxat Raxit.

Citing information from local contacts, he said the government had assigned attorneys to the defendants, but that these had only been able to meet their clients once, for half an hour.

His claims were immediately dismissed by Hou as "groundless".

"The criminal facts in these two cases are extremely clear and the trial was carried out in accordance with judicial procedures. The situation he (Raxit) alleges does not exist," Hou told AFP.

The first assault took place on July 18 on a police station in the remote city of Hotan, which authorities called a "terrorist attack" that left four dead including a security officer.

Exiled activists however say 20 Uighur protesters were killed in the clash, which they called an outburst of anger by ordinary members of the minority.

The other assaults happened in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar less than two weeks later.

Seven people were killed on July 30 and another 28 hurt when two attackers with knives struck at a food street in the city, according to authorities.

A day later six people were killed in another attack, two in a restaurant and four "hacked... arbitrarily" outside, with another 12 civilians and three police wounded. Six attackers were also shot dead by security forces.

According to tianshannet.com.cn, one of those sentenced to death had plotted to carry out acts of terror in several Xinjiang cities since May last year.

On July 18, he led members of his terror group to the police station in Hotan, carrying axes, machetes and Molotov cocktails, and killed three people in the subsequent attack on the building, it added.

The other three defendants sentenced to death had illegally manufactured explosives and at least two of those carried out the Kashgar attacks, the report said.

"During the trial, defendants all confessed to the crimes alleged by the prosecution," the report said, adding the trial was open and the suspects' legal rights were safeguarded according to the law.

Raxit, however, alleged that authorities had threatened to punish the defendants' families if they did not answer questions according to their requests during the trial.

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