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China Sentences Uighurs to Jail on 'Religious Extremism' Charges

Chinese courts in the predominantly Muslim, northwest region of Xinjiang have sentenced 19 ethnic Uighurs to prison for inciting religious extremism and other related charges.

The official Legal Daily said Thursday the toughest sentence of six years in jail was given to a suspect who posted Internet material promoting holy war and ethnic hatred.

Some of the other suspects, it said, were given between two and five years in jail on other charges, including creating a public nuisance and spreading rumors online.

While the report did not specify the ethnicity of the suspects, their names indicated they were from the Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim Uighur community.

China says it faces a growing threat from Uighur extremists who want to form a separate state called East Turkistan. Many rights groups say Beijing is exaggerating the threat to justify its heavy police presence and close monitoring or Muslim institutions.

Many Uighurs also complain of religious and cultural discrimination resulting from a massive influx of the majority Han Chinese group.

Tensions in Xinjiang have been heightened since 2009, when over 200 people died in a series of riots that saw Uighurs fight against state security forces and Han Chinese.

In March, violence in the heavily ethnic Uighur area of Kashgar left 21 people dead, following what officials say was an act of religiously inspired terrorism. Many Uighur activists dispute that account.
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