Jailed Uygur academic Ilham Tohti's case handed to Xinjiang prosecutors, lawyer says

Nearly 400 suspects have been arrested over the past month; Uygur rights activist has not been tried in secret as feared, lawyer says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 8:47am

Authorities in Xinjiang said yesterday they had broken up 32 terrorist groups and arrested more than 380 suspects in the first month of a security campaign in the region.

A total of 315 people had gone on trial and 13 had been executed, Xinhua reported after a press conference held by the region's government. The executions were announced by state media last week.

Police had also seized 264 bombs, more than three tonnes of raw materials for explosives, 357 weapons and 101 computer hard drives holding extremist content, along with books, DVDs and terrorist training materials, Xinhua reported.

Authorities said they had received more than 400 tips from the public that helped the police break up 11 terrorist groups.

The crackdown comes amid several violent attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in recent months that authorities have blamed on extremists seeking independence for the region.

These include an attack on an open-air market in the regional capital, Urumqi , last month that killed 39 innocent people. Four assailants also died.

Exiled Uygur groups and human rights activists say government curbs on the ethnic group's language, religion and culture have inflamed tensions in Xinjiang, allegations authorities strongly deny.

An outspoken Uygur economist and advocate for the rights of the ethnic minority group, Ilham Tohti, was detained in January in Beijing after a raid on his home. He was later charged with spreading separatist ideas.

Fears that Tohti was secretly put on trial and given a harsh sentence were quashed by his lawyer yesterday.

Li Fangping told the South China Morning Post he had finally received word that Tohti's case had been transferred to the prosecutor's office in Urumqi.

Li voiced fears last week that 44-year-old Tohti had been secretly tried and punished by a court of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a quasi-military administrative body under the People's Liberation Army.

Li and a fellow lawyer, Wang Yu , travelled to Urumqi on Sunday to check on the case and were relieved to learn no trial had taken place. "[Wang and I] met staff at the case management centre," Li said. "Now we are waiting for arrangements to check the files."

Tohti's wife, Guzaili Nuer, told the Post she was waiting for more information from Li before deciding whether to visit Urumqi. But she was unsure whether authorities would allow her to see her husband. "I worry about him in jail as he hasn't been able to see anybody in five months," she said from their home in Beijing.

Her husband "had been in good health before he was arrested. I don't know how he is now," she said.