Authorities in China’s troubled Xinjiang region have sentenced a Uyghur to death in connection with a deadly knife attack, drawing condemnation from an exile group which doubted “the legitimacy” of his trial.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported Monday that the Intermediate People’s Court in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s Kashgar prefecture sentenced Abdukerem Mamut to death for “organizing and leading a terrorist group and committing murder” during a Feb. 28 stabbing spree in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county.
According to the court’s verdict, Mamut “spread religious extremism and violent terrorism and formed a terrorist group of nine between last July and February this year,” Xinhua reported, adding that he had “confessed to the crime.”
But Rebiya Kadeer, head of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said Mamut’s alleged admission of guilt “causes serious concerns on how these confessions have been obtained,” adding that ill-treatment and torture in detention are “widespread” in China.
“We fear that Mr. Mamut has been subjected to torture to confess crimes that he has not committed,” the Washington-based Kadeer wrote in a press release.
“His speedy conviction casts serious doubts on the legitimacy of the trial, and we do not believe that it met international legal standards.”
On Feb. 28, Chinese state media reported that nine Uyghur “attackers” armed with knives killed 15 people in Kargilik and injured another 14. During the clash, the report said, one security guard was killed.
Police “shot eight of the assailants dead” and arrested Abdukerem Mamut at the scene, state media said.
But the WUC quoted local sources as saying that 12 people had been killed in the incident, seven of whom were members of the Chinese security forces, and that the police had shot and killed 10 Uyghurs, while injuring a further 11.
Some of the injured were passersby, and at least one of them was left in a life-threatening condition, the WUC said.
Immediately following the incident, the exile group said, Chinese security forces mobilized a large number of armed personnel to enforce martial law in the city, prohibiting inhabitants from leaving the city.
Authorities are also reportedly censoring information on the incident in the Chinese media and on the Internet.
Since March 1, Chinese security forces have detained an estimated 100 Uyghurs in Kargilik, it said.
Authorities quickly labeled the incident a “terrorist attack” masterminded by the WUC, which the exile group strongly denied.
‘Second class citizens’
Several residents of Kargilik county interviewed by RFA in the aftermath of the attack said that the violence stemmed from a massive influx of Han Chinese, resulting in fewer economic opportunities for the Uyghur community, and that Uyghurs were “fed up” with being treated like second-class citizens in their traditional homeland.
Xinjiang has been gripped for years by persistent ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uyghurs and the rapidly growing Han Chinese migrant population, leading to riots in the regional capital Urumqi on July 5, 2009 which left 200 dead and 1,700 injured, according to state media.
Uyghurs, who form a distinct, Turkic-speaking minority in Xinjiang, say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness, even as Beijing pursued ambitious programs to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.