China Sentences Four Uighurs to Death Over Unrest
Four people have been sentenced to death and two others to 19 years for their alleged role in the violent attacks in Xinjiang in July that killed at least 18 people. From the New York Times:
The convictions were the first for the scores of people detained after a series of violent outbursts in Kashgar and Hotan, two Silk Road outposts whose largely Uighur populations have long had a contentious relationship with Chinese rule.
The condemned men, all of them Uighurs, were convicted of homicide, leading a terror group, manufacturing illegal explosives, arson and “other crimes.” A report in the state-run Xinjiang Legal Daily said the trials, which took place on Tuesday in Kashgar and Hotan, were “open and fully protected the suspects’ legal rights.”
Uighur exile groups, however, said the defendants were tortured into giving confessions and denied adequate legal representation. “This was not a fair legal process by any means,” said Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the World Uyghur Congress, an advocacy group in Germany. “These sentences are political decisions, not legal ones.”
The Communist Party has long struggled to quell ethnic tensions in Xinjiang, a vast area of desert and snow-capped peaks prized for its oil and gas reserves, but also as a strategic buffer against Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and other South and Central Asian nations.
Last week, a little-known organization claimed responsibility for the attacks, but their involvement was not confirmed in media reports. Also from the New York Times:
The American organization, the SITE Intelligence Group, posted the video, by the Turkistan Islamic Party, on its Web site on Wednesday, reporting that it had been issued in late August. In the video, according to SITE, the group’s leader, Abdul Shakoor Damla, claimed that attacks in July in Hotan and Kashgar, two southern Xinjiang cities, were acts of revenge for the Chinese government’s repression of the region’s ethnic Uighur population.
The Turkistan Islamic Party has previously made similar claims that remain unverified. Its highest-profile threat, to disrupt the 2008 Beijing Olympics with chemical, biological or conventional weapons, was never carried out.
Some terrorism experts remain concerned about the group’s threats, and its members have been linked to other Islamic militants, including Al Qaeda. But one Chinese analyst, Zhao Guojun of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, was cautious in a telephone interview on Thursday.