Two Uyghur former government officials in China’s Xinjiang region have been sentenced to death for carrying out “separatist activities”, a court said on Wednesday.
China is currently facing global pressure to exhibit more accountability in its treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in the region, which the United States has referred to as “genocide”, with several claims of human rights abuses.
A statement released on the Xinjiang government website said a former head of the Xinjiang department of justice, Shirzat Bawudun has been sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve on the charge of “splitting the country,”
Bawudun had conspired with a terrorist organization, taken bribes and carried out separatist activities, Wang Langtao, vice president of the Xinjiang Higher People’s Court, said at a press conference.
He was found guilty of colluding with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) – listed as a “terrorist” group by the United Nations – after meeting a key member of the group in 2003, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The US removed the group from its list of terror groups last November, saying there was “no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist.”
Bawudun also illegally proved “information to foreign forces” as well as carrying out “illegal religious activities at his daughter’s wedding”, Xinhua said.
The court statement said former director of the Xinjiang education department Sattar Sawut was also sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve after being found guilty of crimes of separatism and taking bribes.
Sawut was found guilty of incorporating ethnic separatism, violence, terrorism, and religious extremism content into textbooks in the Uighur language, officials said.
The court said the textbooks had influenced several people to participate in attacks in the capital Urumqi including riots that resulted in at least 200 deaths in 2009.
Others became “key members of a separatist group” headed by former college teacher Ilham Tohti a Uighur economist jailed for life on separatism charges in 2014.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps across Xinjiang.