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China sentences four more to death in Xinjiang

Swiss leader meets Chinese amid Uighur tension
Geneva (AFP) Jan 26, 2010 - The Swiss president was to meet a top Chinese official for trade talks on Tuesday as Beijing put pressure on Bern to refuse asylum to two Chinese Uighurs who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay. The agenda for the talks focuses on a proposed Chinese-Swiss free trade agreement, but the Swiss President Doris Leuthard has not ruled out discussing the Uighurs' case. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey will also take part in the meeting with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Li Keqiang, officials said. Beijing warned Bern this month that relations could be affected if it takes in the detainees whom it said it wanted back in China. The Uighurs are an ethnic group predominantly found in China's restive Xinjiang province.

"Suspected terrorists with Chinese nationality should be repatriated to China whatever their ethnicity," Beijing said. The United States is trying to close the controversial Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba, where it sent suspects in its "war on terror", and is seeking countries willing to accept its inmates. A Swiss parliamentary commission opposed asylum for the pair, who are brothers, two weeks ago. The brothers were among 22 Uighurs living in Afghanistan when the US-led coalition bombing campaign began there in October 2001. They fled to the mountains but were turned over to Pakistani authorities, who then handed them to the United States. The men's lawyer Elizabeth Gilson said they were not terrorists but "poor men detained in error". Bahtiyar Mahnut, the younger of the pair, went to Afghanistan to find a better life, Gilson said, and his brother Arkin went to bring him home.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 26, 2010
A court in China's Xinjiang region sentenced four people to death over deadly riots in July, bringing to 26 the number of those condemned to die for the unrest, a government official said Tuesday.

The verdicts were handed down on Monday by a court in the regional capital Urumqi, scene of the violence that pitted mainly Muslim Uighurs against China's Han ethnic majority, leaving nearly 200 dead and over 1,600 injured.

"They were sentenced yesterday by the Urumqi Intermediate Court," a spokesman at the Xinjiang government who gave only his surname, Li, told AFP.

"Four people were sentenced to death, one was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and eight others got prison terms of up to life."

A death sentence with a reprieve is normally commuted to life in prison.

Monday's sentences brought to 26 the number of people who have been reported executed or condemned to die over their roles in the unrest, some of the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.

The Xinjiang Daily newspaper said verdicts came in five separate cases with the 13 defendants charged with the "violent crimes of attacking, smashing, looting and burning", a Chinese term that means violent rioting.

The defendants' names provided by the Xinjiang Daily appeared to be Uighur, the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group that has long complained of Chinese repression.

During the initial eruption of violence on July 5, Uighurs attacked Han Chinese, but in subsequent days mobs of Han roamed the streets seeking revenge.

Uighurs say the violence was sparked when police cracked down harshly on peaceful demonstrations in Urumqi that were held to protest the beating deaths of two Uighur migrant workers at a factory in southern China.

Authorities quickly implemented a clampdown on communications in and out of Xinjiang after the riots, blocking Internet access, text messages and international phone calls.

These restrictions have only just been lifted, although the Internet is still only partly accessible.

China says it faces a serious separatist threat in Xinjiang and has vowed harsh retribution for those found guilty of wrongdoing in the unrest.

State media said earlier this month that funding for public security in Xinjiang would nearly double in 2010.

A budget proposal placed before Xinjiang's legislature called for 2.89 billion yuan (423 million dollars) to be spent on public security, up from 1.54 billion yuan in 2009, the official China Daily reported.

But exiled Uighurs say Beijing exaggerates the separatist threat to justify harsh controls in the strategic western region, which is rich in energy reserves and borders on several central Asian countries.

Earlier this year, authorities also issued orders to step up identity checks and monitor religious activities in Xinjiang in a renewed bid to quash terrorism, separatism and extremism, state media reported.

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