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China says 113 get jail sentences in crackdown on terrorism in ethnic Xinjiang region

BEIJING, China - Chinese courts in the far west, ethnic region of Xinjiang have imprisoned 113 people for terrorism or other charges, according to a government-run news portal.

Regional courts in the Kashgar area held open sessions on Wednesday to sentence the 113, including four who received life terms, in 69 cases, Tianshan.net said in a Sunday report.

The region, home to Muslim minority Uighurs, has seen a rise in violence in recent months. Most recently, a May 22 attack in a vegetable market in the regional capital of Urumqi left 43 dead, including four suspected attackers, prompting Beijing to announce a year-long operation to crack down on what it calls terrorism in the region.

Beijing blames the violence on religious extremists with ties to overseas terrorism groups. Members of the Uighur minority have long complained of repressive ethnic policies and practices, and economic disenfranchisement in their resource-rich land.

Since the crackdown's commencement, Xinjiang courts have held several mass sentencing sessions. The first came on May 27 when a Chinese court announced guilty verdicts for 55 people on charges of terrorism, separatism and murder in a public rally inside a stadium. In early June, Xinjiang courts sentenced another 81 people to terror-related charges.

Last week, China announced it had executed 13 people for terrorism and other violent crimes in Xinjiang.

Chinese authorities also said they broke up 32 terror groups and arrested more than 380 suspects in the first month of the crackdown aimed at demonstrating the Beijing's resolve to maintain order in Xinjiang.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Uighur rights group World Uyghur Congress, said courts in Xinjiang are in a political race to sentence Uighurs to jail terms amid the crackdown.

"They have trampled on the rights of the defendants to argue and appeal, accusing Uighurs who are rising against China's suppression and expressing their dissatisfaction of being terrorists," Dilxat Raxi said in a statement. "It will only lead to extreme forms of resistance when people cannot protest peacefully."

Among the latest cases, two defendants were convicted of organizing and leading terror groups after they viewed terrorism materials, spread extreme religious thoughts and plotted terror activities, according to Tianshan.net. Both received life imprisonment.

In another case, a man operating a cutlery shop in Kashgar was given a 10-year prison term after he sold two hatchets, two kitchen cleavers and two daggers to a man who used them in an attack that killed two and injured one. The knife vendor destroyed the registration book detailing the sale, and he was convicted of harbouring criminals, Tianshan.net said.

A court also jailed a man for 10 years for forwarding to seven friends private messages believed to incite ethnic hatred and racial discrimination, the news portal reported.

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