3 get death for China train station attack

2014-09-12 22:52
Chinese police. (STR, AFP)

Chinese police. (STR, AFP)

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Beijing - A Chinese court sentenced three people to death and one to life in prison on Friday for an attack at a train station in southwestern China that triggered a sweeping crackdown on what Beijing calls militant violence.

The government said knife-wielding militants from the unruly western region of Xinjiang launched a premeditated attack in March at the Kunming station in Yunnan province, in which 31 people were killed and 141 injured. Police shot dead four of the attackers.

China's leaders have vowed to strike hard at religious extremists and separatist groups, which they blame for a series of violent attacks in Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.

State television showed the four suspects, three men and one woman sitting in the court in Kunming, watched over by heavily armed police dressed in black.

The court announced the sentencing on its official microblog, naming the four defendants, all of whom are Uighur, to judge by their names.

"Today's trial clearly shows the resolute attitude and staunch determination of the Chinese government to protect the life, property, security and joint interests of all ethnicities, and severely strike at violent terrorism crimes", the Kunming Municipal intermediate people's court said.


Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad were sentenced to death for leading a terrorist organisation and intentional homicide. The fourth defendant, Patigul Tohti, was jailed for life for taking part in the attack as well as intentional homicide, because she was pregnant at the time of her detention.

Patigul Tohti was shot and wounded by police at the station, while the other three were arrested a few days before the attack while trying to flee the country, the court said.

In total, eight people were involved in the plot, though only five carried out the attack, it said.

The eight were "influenced by extremist religious thinking" and began meeting in December to plan their attack, the court said. Five more people were involved in forming their terror group, a case which is being handled separately, it added.

Some of the people who were attacked, as well as relatives of the dead, were in the courtroom, it said.

Courts in China are controlled by the ruling Communist Party, making it unusual for those accused of crimes, particularly in politicised cases to have a fair trial.

On Thursday, China's top prosecutor called for swifter trials of "terrorists, religious extremists and makers of firearms and explosives".

The Kunming attack was one of the single deadliest incidents attributed by the government to militants. A suicide bombing in May killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi.

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, is crucial to China's growing energy needs. Analysts say most of the proceeds from the sale of its resources have gone to the majority Han Chinese, stoking resentment among Uighurs.

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