Six more death penalty in Xinjiang

BEIJING: A court in western China's Xinjiang region on Thursday sentenced six more people to death over deadly ethnic unrest in July, the state Xinhua news agency reported, bringing the total to 12.

Three other people were handed life sentences by the court in the regional capital Urumqi for their role in the July 5 unrest that rocked the city, pitting mainly Muslim Uighurs against members of China's dominant Han group.

On Monday, six defendants -- all Uighurs -- were handed the death penalty and another was given life in jail over the unrest, which left nearly 200 people dead, most of them Han, according to the government.

The riots were the worst ethnic violence to hit China in decades, and left more than 1,600 people injured.

The nine who were sentenced Thursday were part of a larger group of 14 tried a day earlier, but the two-sentence Xinhua report did not mention the five remaining defendants. None of the nine convicted was identified.

A spokeswoman for the city government in Urumqi confirmed Thursday that verdicts had been announced, but said she had no further details. Officials at the local court were not immediately available for comment.

Aside from the 21 tried this week, police have also detained about 700 other people suspected of crimes related to the unrest, earlier reports have said.

China's roughly eight million Uighurs have long complained of religious, political and cultural oppression by Chinese authorities, and tensions have simmered in the Xinjiang region for years.

Uighurs say the unrest was triggered when police cracked down on peaceful protests by Uighurs over a late June brawl at a factory in southern China that state media said left two Uighurs dead.

One ethnic Han man was sentenced to death and a second handed a life prison term over that brawl in verdicts announced on Saturday in southern China.

Authorities, however, have blamed the Xinjiang unrest on "ethnic separatists," without providing any evidence.