10/14/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Xinjiang: 14 Uyghurs go on trial after six are sentenced to death

New trial might also end with death penalty. For Rebiya Kadeer, executions will increase poplar anger.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The trial of 14 people accused of involvement in ethnic unrest that shook China's far western Xinjiang region in July opened today, authorities said, two days after six Uyghur men were sentenced to death for the same offences.

The defendants are charged with murder, robbery, arson and vandalism, Xinhua news agency reported, in connection with the violence that broke out after a peaceful demonstration got out of hand and turned into a race riot between Muslim Uyghurs and ethnic Han Chinese.

A late intervention by police and the military ended the unrest that left almost 200 people dead and led to a thousand arrests.

For Beijing, demonstrations and clashes were orchestrated by the Uyghur Diaspora, led by Rebiya Kadeer. For China, the exiled Uyghur leader is a terrorist.

The 14 were part of a group of 21 people charged with offenses relating to the unrest. Six have already been given the death penalty; a seventh was sentenced to life in prison.

In criticising the court’s decision, Rebiya Kadeer said, “This is not going to create peace and stability in the region; this will further enrage the Uyghur people.”

Ms Kadeer, who an important leader of the World Uyghur Congress, also said she feared that many of the arrested (in addition to those who were sentenced to death) were tortured and that others simply disappeared.

For more than half a century, Uyghurs have been demanding greater autonomy from China’s central government.

Some groups in the Islamic Movement of Turkistan have successfully carried out terrorist attacks against China.

However, China has wielded an iron fist in the province, arresting and sentencing hundreds to death per year.

On the pretext of stopping “terrorism”, Beijing has also placed the Uyghurs’ religious life under tight control. This includes monitoring imams’ speeches, banning young people from attending Friday prayers in mosques, and demolishing mosques and Islamic schools.

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