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China sentences 3 more to death over Xinjiang riots: Xinhua

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 4, 2009
A court in China's restive Xinjiang sentenced three more people to death Friday for their roles in July ethnic violence, state media said, raising the total condemned to die or executed to 17.

The court in the regional capital Urumqi sentenced another person to life in prison, while three defendants were given varying jail terms for the violence that left nearly 200 dead, the Xinhua news agency said, citing the verdict.

On Thursday, an Urumqi court handed out death sentences to five others.

Last month, nine people were executed for their roles in the violence that also left over 1,600 injured in the worst strife in China in decades.

Violence erupted in the streets of the far-western city on July 5, when Uighurs -- a Muslim minority that has long complained of repression under Chinese rule -- attacked members of China's Han ethnic majority.

In subsequent days, mobs of Han roamed the streets seeking revenge.

The verdict identified those sentenced to death Friday as Heyrinisa Sawut, a woman, Ruzikhari Niyaz -- both apparently Uighurs judging from their names -- and Li Longfei.

Sawut was convicted of beating one man to death and injuring three others by repeatedly bludgeoning them with a wooden club, the verdict said, while Niyaz was convicted of killing a taxi driver.

Li Longfei, whose name suggested he was Han Chinese, was convicted over the beating deaths of at least two victims, the verdict said. Both victims' names suggested they were Uighurs.

State television broacast images of the defendants, wearing orange and dark blue vests, being led into court by policemen walking on either side of them.

The Urumqi court refused to comment on the cases or Friday's sentences when contacted by AFP.

The executions and death sentences have drawn criticism from Western governments and rights groups that have questioned the fairness of the trials.

"The Chinese government has brazenly ignored all standards of due process of law in a campaign to silence and intimidate the Uighur population through executions and mass detentions," Rebiya Kadeer, the Washington-based leader of the World Uighur Congress, said after Thursday's convictions.

So far, 41 people have been tried and sentenced in the unrest.

Several defendants have been given life sentences and three have been sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, which probably means their sentences will be commuted to life in prison.

According to the state prosecution, more cases linked to the unrest are being prepared for trial, Xinhua said, without giving details on when these would be heard.

China's roughly eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs accuse Chinese authorities of decades of religious, political and cultural oppression -- which China denies -- and tensions have simmered in Xinjiang for years.

China says it faces a serious terrorist threat from Muslim separatists in Xinjiang, but rights groups have accused Beijing of exaggerating the danger to justify repression in the vast region bordering Central Asia.

Authorities have blamed the July unrest on "ethnic separatists", without providing any evidence.

But Uighurs say the violence was initially triggered when police cracked down on peaceful protests in Urumqi over a brawl in late June at a factory in southern China that state media said left two Uighurs dead.

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