Four Xinjiang people have been sentenced to death or given suspended death sentences for separatist activities, a human rights group said yesterday. A further 24 were jailed for between five and 20 years at the same public trial in the town of Wushi last Sunday. Two people were immediately executed. The trial was held one day after United Nations human rights chief Mary Robinson left China following an official visit. During talks, Ms Robinson warned Beijing against using the global fight against terrorism as an excuse for repression in the province of Xinjiang. President Jiang Zemin rebuffed her criticism, saying terrorism was itself an abuse of human rights. Police had claimed those executed were ordinary criminals convicted of murder and armed robbery. But the Swedish-based East Turkestan Information Centre said the four were convicted of taking armed action or using violence to split the country and establish an East Turkestan Republic. A local police officer confirmed that one of the two people whose death sentences were suspended for two years was a separatist who had planned an attack with a home-made bomb. The other 24 were jailed for crimes including printing and distributing pamphlets calling for an independent Muslim state, the human rights group said. The separatist campaign has seen violence and bombings across the region in recent years. Mainland authorities claim most Uygurs oppose separatism and that the Xinjiang 'terrorists' are financed, trained and supplied by hostile foreign groups, including the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States. International rights groups have argued that the majority of separatists in Xinjiang use non-violent practices. Xinhua this week announced an intensified 'patriotic education' campaign for religious leaders in Xinjiang in which 8,000 imams in charge of mosques would be required to take lessons to correct 'political and ideological confusions'. More than 1,700 Communist Party cadres and ethnic-Han officials were recently assigned to areas of the Uygur-dominated city of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang to 'get to know' residents, the Xinjiang Legal Daily reported. The move was seen as a bid to step up control in the region.