China jails 'syringe attackers'
Three people jailed for up to 15 years after several stabbings in Xinjiang province.
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2009 11:34 GMT
A series of syringe stabbings prompted protests by Xinjiang's ethnic Han Chinese [Reuters]

A court in China's western Xinjiang province has sentenced three people to prison terms of up to 15 years for their involvement in a wave of syringe attacks.

The attacks, in which a number of people were stabbed with syringes, sparked angry protests by ethnic Han Chinese who blamed members of the Uighur minority for the attacks.

Urumqi remains tense since protests and rioting in July left almost 200 people dead, mostly Han Chinese.

In the first case completed on Saturday, a court in Urumqi found Yilipan Yilihamu, a 19-year-old student, guilty of an "attack with a dangerous substance," state-run CCTV television reported. 

It said that Yilihamu, whose ethnicity was not given although his name is Uighur, was convicted of stabbing a woman with a syringe at a street market on August 28.  
Yilihamu was sentenced to 15 years in prison but the report said that he intended to appeal against the verdict.

Taxi driver threatened

In a second case heard in the same court, Muhutaerjiang Turdi, a 34-year-old man, and Aimannisha Guli, a woman aged 22, were sentenced to 10 and seven years in prison respectively.

The pair threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and robbed him of $104, according to CCTV, which broadcast images of the convicts clad in orange prison wear and guarded by police as they faced the court.

A court official contacted by the AFP news agency confirmed the sentences but would not give details.

The Xinhua news agency said the proceedings, which lasted three hours, were held in Uighur with Mandarin translation, as requested by the defendants.
More than 200 people attended the court hearings, including family members of the accused and their victims, it reported.

Numerous attacks

The authorities has vowed to deal harshly with anyone who carries out such attacks, particularly if the syringes are found to contain poisonous substances.

Police in Urumqi have received reports of more than 500 syringe attacks but, in most cases, the syringes did not contain any harmful substances, according to the authorities.

The China Daily newspaper reported of Friday that syringe attacks had occurred in other towns across Xinjiang.

The region's eight million ethnic Uighurs have long complained about Chinese oppression and the immigration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, while the recent tensions have encouraged protests by the Han demanding greater protection.

Xinjiang has around 20 million inhabitants divided among 47 ethnic groups. The Han Chinese have increased from six per cent to 40 per cent of the population under political policies advocated by Beijing since the 1990s.

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