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Seven Muslims Charged for Killing Buddhist Monk in Burma

A court in Burma has convicted seven Muslims for the killing of a Buddhist monk during deadly sectarian riots in a central town earlier this year.

Officials say the defendants received sentences ranging from life to two years in prison for their involvement in the March 20 incident in the town of Meikhtila.

The unrest began after an argument at a Muslim-owned gold shop turned violent and spilled into the streets. The ensuing riots, which mostly targeted minority Muslims, killed at least 44 people and displaced more than 12,000.

The gold shop owner and two of his employees, who also were Muslim, were each sentenced to 14 years in prison last month. Dozens of others have been arrested, but authorities have not announced any charges against Buddhists.

Burmese officials Tuesday denied that religion was a factor in bringing the charges, promising all those responsible will be brought to justice.

Many of the riots in Meikhtila were led by extremist Buddhist monks, some of whom also were involved in a regional campaign calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses.

The anti-Muslim violence later spread to other areas of central Burma, but was contained following the declaration of a state of emergency.

It was Burma's worst sectarian unrest since last year's clashes between Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state, where about 200 people were killed and more than 100,000 others left homeless.

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