Former senior Xinjiang official sentenced to death for separatism

Sattar Sawut was convicted for his role in the publication of school textbooks said to incite interethnic hatred. Five other Uyghurs were convicted in the same case. The former head of the local justice department was also sentenced to death for conspiring with Muslim separatists.


Beijing (AsiaNews) – A Chinese court has sentenced to death a former head of Xinjiang's education department on charges of separatism and taking  bribes. The court suspended for two years the sentence against Sattar Sawut, who was convicted along with five other Uyghurs, a Muslim-majority Turkic group.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported the court decision, but did not indicate when the verdict was reached. Sawut came under investigation in 2017 for his role in the publication of school textbooks that allegedly incited inter-ethnic hatred and encouraged the spread of "separatist thoughts" in the autonomous region.

The offending texts are blamed for a series of violent riots between 2009 and 2014. According to Beijing, Uyghur terrorists are seeking the independence of Xinjiang, which they call East Turkestan.

According to expert data, confirmed by the United Nations, China holds or held more than a million Muslims in Xinjiang concentration camps. Recent media revelations have highlighted the existence of labour camps in the region, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz are forced to work, especially picking cotton.

China has denied the accusations, claiming that the camps in Xinjiang are vocational centres, part of a plan to reduce poverty while fighting terrorism and separatism.

Meanwhile, the Xinjiang Regional Court sentenced to death Shirzat Bawudun, the former head of the local justice department, after he was convicted of separatism.

In his decision, Judge Wang Langtao said Bawudun conspired with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.  According to the United Nations, the latter is a terrorist group; however, last November, the United States removed it from its blacklist, citing a lack of evidence that it is still existed.