Sep 16, 2013

East Turkestan: Three Sentenced To Death Over June Violence

Three ethnic Uyghurs have been sentenced to death by Chinese authorities over the violence in June in Xinjiang.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia:

Chinese authorities have sentenced three ethnic Uyghurs to death after linking them to bloody June violence in the restive Xinjiang region in punishments condemned Friday by a global advocacy group.

The Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang's Turpan Prefecture sentenced Ahmatniyaz Sidiq, Urayim Eli and Abdulla Esrapil to death for acts of "terrorism" in the violence in Lukchun township of Pichan (in Chinese, Shanshan) county, the official Xinhua news agency reported. 

It also ordered that another Uyghur, Akram Usman, be jailed for 25 years for the June 26 violence.

All four were accused of committing murder and being involved in a "terrorist" organization, Xinhua said.

The Lukchun incident was sparked by an attack on police stations and other government establishments by a "knife-wielding mob" of Uyghurs, according to Xinhua, but Uyghur activists blamed the Chinese government's "sustained repression and provocation" of the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) for the violence. 

Xinhua had said at that time that the death toll was 35 but local officials had told RFA's Uyghur Service that it was as high as 46.

It was among the worst violence in Xinjiang, home to some 9 million ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs who say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination and oppressive religious controls under Beijing’s policies, blaming the problems partly on the influx of Han Chinese into the region.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Uyghur exile group, in a statement Friday condemned the death sentences handed down to the three Uyghurs, saying the charges against them were not substantiated and the verdict was pre-planned.

The WUC noted that the sentences came about a month after Beijing sentenced two Uyghurs to death for their alleged links to another bloody incident in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture in a hearing it said was also marred by a lack of due process and concrete evidence. The April 23 violence in Siriqbuya township in Maralbeshi (Bachu) county had left 21 dead.

“This confirms that the Chinese authorities have followed through with their vow that further death sentences would happen, thus illustrating that the verdict was reached before the trial had commenced,” WUC President Rebiya Kadeer said in a statement, seeking global attention to what she called human rights abuses in Xinjiang. 

"The WUC calls on the international community to take stock of this ongoing urgent and mounting human rights crisis that is plighting the Uyghurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang)," she said.

Kadeer cited a recent report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations Human Rights Council that, “States must [...] ensure that the highest level of compliance with fair trial and other international human rights norms and standards are met in all death penalty cases.”

"Whilst the WUC resolutely deplores and condemns all violence, all trials pursuing capital punishment must adhere to and maintain the strictest standards outlined by the Secretary-General, which has evidently not been the case with the handing down of these death sentences," the WUC statement said.

“What more has to happen in East Turkestan before the international community feels that it can stand up, make itself heard and condemn in unison the Chinese authorities' handling of these recent incidents? The current silence has been deafening,” Kadeer said.

Chinese authorities usually blame outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang on "terrorists" among the Uyghurs.

But rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against Uyghurs.