- 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"
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."
'Deplorable' show trial
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