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Three death sentences for Tiananmen Square attackers

By Zoe Li, CNN
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Smoke rises from the scene of a fatal car crash attack in 2013 at Tiananmen Square.
Smoke rises from the scene of a fatal car crash attack in 2013 at Tiananmen Square.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eight people stood trial for a deadly 2013 attack at in Tiananmen Square that left six dead
  • Three accused have been given handed death sentences by a court in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang
  • One other person has been sentenced to life imprisonment

(CNN) -- Three people have been sentenced to death on Monday for their roles in a deadly attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last October, state television CCTV reported on its microblog.

Another defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment, while four others received prison terms between five and 20 years.

The trial that began on June 13 took place at a court in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China.

Recently Xinjiang has been at the center of a spate of attacks, labeled terrorism by the authorities. A number of Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group who largely populate the province, have been implicated in an increasingly violent separatism movement.

The sentenced people in a Urumqi courtroom. Photo from CCTV.  The sentenced people in a Urumqi courtroom. Photo from CCTV.
The sentenced people in a Urumqi courtroom. Photo from CCTV.The sentenced people in a Urumqi courtroom. Photo from CCTV.
Xinjiang attacks shifting to civilians
Tensions in western China
Urumqi on edge before deadly anniversary

It is unclear what exact role the sentenced people -- with names that sound Uyghur -- played in the Tiananmen incident that occurred October 28, 2013.

A vehicle drove through security barriers into a crowd in the square when it crashed into a pedestrian bridge in front of the Forbidden City and burst into flames. The attack killed six people, including three in the vehicle, and wounded 39 others. Police caught all suspects some ten hours after the attack.

Not along after the incident, one Islamic militant group called the strike a "jihadi operation" and warned of more violence to come.

In a speech posted online, Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party, said those who carried out the attack were "mujahideen," the SITE Intelligence group said in a report. East Turkestan is the name used by many Uyghur groups to refer to Xinjiang.

Some Uyghurs have expressed resentment toward 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.

Uyghurs are said to have faced widespread discrimination, including in employment, housing and educational opportunities, as well as curtailed religious freedom and political marginalization.

READ: Indictments in last year's Tiananmen Square attack

READ: China's restive far west

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