Skip to main content

55 sentenced before 7,000 onlookers at terror 'show trial' in Chinese stadium

By Tim Hume and Dayu Zhang, CNN
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Dozens of terror suspects are found guilty before 7000 spectators at a stadium in China's Xinjiang Province.
Dozens of terror suspects are found guilty before 7000 spectators at a stadium in China's Xinjiang Province.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 55 people have been sentenced on terror charges in a stadium "show trial" in China
  • Three were sentenced to death in the stadium in Xinjiang, before 7,000 spectators
  • The trial is part of a response to a string of terror attacks linked to the Uyghur minority
  • Amnesty International has slammed the stadium trial as "deplorable"

Beijing (CNN) -- A Chinese court sentenced 55 people on terror charges before thousands of onlookers in a stadium in Xinjiang Province Wednesday, as part of a hardline response to a string of deadly attacks across the country.

The trial was held in a stadium in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in the restive western province of Xinjiang, before about 7,000 spectators, according to reports.

The accused were found guilty by the Higher People's Court of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of charges including intentional homicide, separatism, and organizing, leading and participating in terrorist activities.

Three of the accused were sentenced to death, state media reported, for the murder "with extreme cruelty" of a family of four in Yining City, using blades and axes, on April 20. The court named one of those sentenced to death over the attack, whose victims included a three-year-old girl, as Abulimiti Abdullah, state media reported.

Pictures from the sentencing showed the accused held on the back of pick-up trucks, dressed in orange jumpsuits and surrounded by security forces. A banner across the back of the stadium read: "Yili Prefecture Public Judgment, Public Seizure, Public Arrest General Assembly."

Li Minghui, vice-secretary of the prefectural Communist Party committee, vowed to strike hard against terrorists.

"We have the confidence, resolution and capability to take a firm stance, form an iron hand and hit hard and fast like a thunder to vanquish the enemy's arrogant audacity," he was reported as saying.

"We will achieve the final victory of this war of the people to stop terrorism and maintain stability."

Report: Extremist groups busted in northwest China

'Deplorable' show trial

Terror suspects, in orange jumpsuits, held by security forces.
Terror suspects, in orange jumpsuits, held by security forces.

Human rights organization Amnesty International called the proceedings a show trial, labeling it "deplorable" and saying it was no way to address public security concerns in the wake of the violence that has spread from the province. Most of those sentenced were believed to be Uyghurs, it said in a statement.

"Those responsible for the recent violent attacks have shown a callous disregard for human life and must be held to account. But speedy show trials will not deliver justice for the victims," said William Nee, Amnesty's China researcher.

"Hastily sentencing people after unfair trials will only exacerbate tensions."

He said Chinese authorities appeared "more concerned with courting public opinion than justice."

"It is highly doubtful the accused received fair trials," he said, adding that those sentenced were believed to be at risk of torture in detention.

READ MORE: Xinjiang and tensions in China's restive west

Spate of terror

The trial follows a spate of terror attacks in public spaces across China linked to Xinjiang's Uyghur population, a mainly Turkic-speaking Muslim minority.

The latest bout began when a jeep plowed into crowds in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing five and injuring at least 40, and have intensified in recent months.

Twenty-nine people were killed and 130 injured when men armed with long knives stormed a train station in Kunming in March. The following month an attack on a train station in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, left three dead, including the attackers, while an attack on an Urumqi market earlier this month killed at least 39.

In response, police in Xinjiang launched a crackdown on extremist groups in the province, arresting 200 suspects and seizing hundreds of explosive devices, Chinese state media reported this week. The state's anti-terrorist force has been beefed up in Xinjiang, and security tightened around the country.

Some Uyghurs have expressed resentment towards China's Han majority in recent years over what they say is harsh treatment from Chinese security forces and Han people taking the lion's share of economic opportunities in Xinjiang.

Amnesty said Uyghurs face widespread discrimination, including in employment, housing and educational opportunities, as well as curtailed religious freedom and political marginalization.

OPINION: China faces its own 'war on terror'

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
updated 1:38 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
updated 1:45 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
updated 10:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
updated 1:13 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
updated 5:08 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
updated 12:52 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
updated 3:42 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT