Bingtuan Supreme Court Affirms Jail Terms for Uyghur Youths


2003-12-22
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The Bingtuan Supreme Court in China�s Xinjiang Autonomous Region has upheld jail terms for 18 youths belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority, RFA�s Uyghur service reports. All 18 were sentenced by a lower court in August 1999 for alleged anti-Chinese separatist activities.

The alleged leader of the group, Shirmehemet Abdurishit, must now complete a 15-year jail term, to be followed by five years� deprivation of his political rights, according to Uyghur sources and the Chinese media. The other 17 defendants, whose names haven�t been released, will now complete jail terms of up to 14 years.

The group was accused of engaging in separatist activities in May and June 1998 including �inciting [others] to split China, organizing meetings, taking oaths, accepting membership, and possessing illegal publications and counter-revolutionary video for propaganda purposes, according to the Chinese-language newspaper Wen Wei Po , based in Hong Kong.

They were arrested in June 1998 and sentenced by Bingtuan Fourth Division Middle Court in August 1999. The group appealed immediately to the Bingtuan Supreme Court. When exactly the Bingtuan Supreme Court announced it ruling was unclear.

News that the sentences had been upheld came less than a week after Chinese authorities published a list of Uyghur individuals and groups campaigning for independence from China that Beijing designates terrorist organizations. The Chinese authorities also called for international cooperation against them.

�The Chinese government hopes that the international community will support China�s efforts to combat terrorism,� Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. �And it calls on all governments, especially law enforcement agencies, to take legal action against those organizations which China has determined as terrorist organizations, to ban their activities in their territories, forbid support, financing and harboring of these organizations and to freeze their assets,� he said.

Liu said that China wanted to step up its international cooperation on the fight against terrorism, including cooperation through diplomatic, intelligence, and military channels, but he stopped short of saying whether Beijing would request the extradition of those it had named terrorists.

China�s Ministry of Public Security on Monday named four groups campaigning for self-rule in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which Uyghur activists refer to as East Turkestan. One of the organizations was the East Turkestan Information Center (ETIC), which runs a prominent news Web site on Uyghur affairs. The other three were named as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), and World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC).

ETIC was accused of secretly sending information on how to conduct violent terrorist activities back to a network within the Chinese border, and claimed it was using its information role as a facade for these activities.

�The ETIC openly advertises religious extremist ideas in articles it published, including �Is There Hope for Our Independence� and �To Win Independence or to Die�,� Zhao said, adding that the organization had called on Muslims in Chinese territory to employ explosives and poisons in attacks on kindergartens and schools of the ethnic Han population and government establishments, and to attack Chinese armed forces.

The Germany-based ETIC English-language Web site carried reports of China�s announcement, including a reaction from its own spokesman. Dilshat Rashit denied any involvement in violence. �China�s anti-terrorism activities cannot be believed,� Rashit was quoted as saying. �We hope that Western countries don�t fall into the trap set by the Chinese government.�

Rashit said ETIC was being targeted �because we have been exposing the negative side of the Chinese government.� He said China often blames unsolved crimes on the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Human rights groups and Western governments routinely criticize China for its heavy-handed treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

In recent testimony aired by RFA�s Uyghur service after his execution in China, Uyghur independence activist Shirali detailed a litany of torture and abuse at the hands of Chinese prison guards and interrogators.

Shirali was accused of membership of ETIM, which was blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations as a terrorist organization after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Uyghurs constitute a distinct, Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority in northwestern China and Central Asia. They declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the late 1940s but have remained under Beijing�s control since 1949. According to a Chinese Government white paper, in 1998 Xinjiang comprised 8 million Uyghurs, 2.5 million other ethnic minorities, and 6.4 million Han Chinese-up from 300,000 Han in 1949. Most Uyghurs are poor farmers, and at least 25 percent are illiterate. #####

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