[JURIST] This week's trials of those involved in the deadly July riots in Urumqi [JURIST news archive], the capital of China's Xinjiang province, failed to meet [HRW release] Chinese and international fairness and due process standards Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Friday. HRW alleges that defendants were not allowed access to the lawyers of their choice due to veiled government threats against lawyers who would take cases and not cooperate with the government. HRW also claims that the cases went to judges based on their political leanings, violating the defendants' rights to an independent judge. Finally, HRW claims that the government violated both Chinese law and international standards by not announcing the trials and closing the proceedings to international journalists and observers. Other trials are expected as this week's defendants represent only a small number of the 108 people charged [JURIST report] with crimes related to the protests.
On Thursday, the Urumqi People's Court sentenced six individuals to death and three to life in prison for their role in the protests. Earlier this week, six other individuals were sentenced to death [JURIST report], and one more was sentenced to life in prison, for their roles in the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents that claimed the lives of approximately 200 people. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media [Xinhua report] has reported that most of the deaths were due to protesters. For their part, the Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. 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.