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China Asks Indonesia to Extradite Uighur Prisoners

FILE - Suspects, believed to be members of China’s ethnic Uighur minority community, are escorted by police officers prior to their trial hearing at North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, July 13, 2015. A court has sentenced the men to six years in jail for conspiring with Indonesian terrorists.

China has asked Indonesia to extradite four Uighur men in exchange for returning a graft fugitive recently arrested in Shanghai, the top Indonesian security minister said Thursday.

Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said Indonesia will allow China to question the men, who are serving prison sentences for collaborating with Indonesia's most wanted militant, Abu Wardah Santoso.

He said China's request was made during negotiations for the deportation from China of corruption fugitive Samadikun Hartono.

Pandjaitan said Indonesia would talk with China separately about the four members of China's Muslim Uighur minority "because it is a different case." They were arrested in September 2014 in Central Sulawesi.

Hartono fled from Indonesia in 2003 after the Supreme Court sentenced him to four years in prison for misappropriating government bailout funds during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Indonesia expects he will be deported from China on Thursday.

Starting in around 2009, groups of Uighurs have traveled across Southeast Asia from their homeland of Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China, hoping to reach Turkey to claim asylum from what they say is persecution by Chinese authorities.

China has alleged that members of the Uighur minority in the past have joined the Islamic State group and returned home to carry out extremist plots.

Indonesian authorities believe a small number entered Indonesia to join forces with local militants at the urging of Santoso.

Four suspected Uighur militants were fatally shot by Indonesian security forces last month in Central Sulawesi, and police believe at least two others are still in a jungle with Santoso's group.