Nine sentenced to death in mass trials of 81 terror suspects in Xinjiang

Eighty-one prisoners punished by courts around the region, but rights groups have questioned the speed and fairness of trials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 4:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 7:01am

Nine people were sentenced to death yesterday in Xinjiang on terrorism charges.

Courts around the region sentenced 81 people for offences including murder, arson and belonging to a terrorist organisation, state media reported.

The verdicts were announced as the authorities announced that 29 terrorist suspects had been arrested in Urumqi .

They were held for allegedly inciting secession, gathering a crowd to disrupt social order and inciting racial hatred, according to the prosecutor's office in the provincial capital.

The authorities have launched a massive crackdown against terrorism after a series of violent attacks in Xinjiang and other cities on the mainland.

Police [on strict deadlines] are ... under enormous pressure to produce results
Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch

These include the killing of 39 people in Urumqi last month after attackers drove into crowds and hurled explosives at an open-air market.

The government has blamed the violence on Muslim ethnic-Uygur separatists from Xinjiang. The authorities in the region were using the full force of the security services and the People's Liberation Army to root out terrorists and religious extremists, weapons manufacturing workshops and terrorist training camps, Xinhua said.

Human rights organisations have questioned the speed and fairness of the trials against terrorism suspects in the region.

"Police are given a particular time limit to crack the case, which means they are under enormous pressure to produce results," said Maya Wang, a researcher from Human Rights Watch.

This was likely to result in forced confessions, torture or other illegal methods of collecting evidence, she said.

"If terrorism is indeed an organised activity as the government claims, then surely this is complex issue, but the prosecutors process suspects in 48 hours, which is insufficient for something so complex," said Wang.

The authorities in Xinjiang held a mass sentencing of 55 prisoners held on terrorism charges in Yining last week.

At least three people were given the death sentence.

The prisoners had been convicted of crimes including murder and separatism, the People's Daily reported.

The sentencing attracted a crowd of 7,000 people at a sports stadium. Photos showed packed stadium seats and trucks parked on the sports field loaded with prisoners in orange jackets being guarded by armed police.

The mass sentencing followed a similar event earlier last month in the region where 39 people were jailed on terrorism charges.

Human rights organisations and Uygur exile groups say curbs on the ethnic groups religion, language and culture have inflamed tensions in Xinjiang, allegations the government strongly denies.