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China appeals court upholds sentences of Xinjiang rioters

[JURIST] An appeals court in China's Xinjiang province on Friday affirmed the convictions of 21 people found guilty of murder and other crimes such as arson and robbery for their roles in July's violent demonstrations in Urumqi [JURIST news archive] that left about 200 people dead and many more injured. The Higher People's Court of Xinjiang upheld the sentences [Xinhua report], including nine death sentences handed down on October 12 and October 15 [JURIST reports], ruling that the sentences were appropriate and supported by sufficient evidence. The Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] is due to review and approve the death sentences before they take effect.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has criticized [JURIST report] the trials for failing to meet Chinese and international fairness and due process standards. The advocacy group claims that the government violated both Chinese law and international standards by failing to announce the trials and closing the proceedings to international journalists and observers. HRW has also claimed that more than 40 Uighur men have disappeared [JURIST report] since being detained by Chinese security forces. Originally 108 were charged [JURIST report] in connection with the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state-run media reported [Xinhua report] that most of the deaths were due to protesters. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.

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