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.
  • 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'

Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
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 Xi Jinping 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.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.