A Chinese court on Tuesday found a prominent Uighur scholar guilty of separatism and jailed him for life, his lawyer said.
Economics professor Ilham Tohti, who has spoken out against the government’s policies toward the Muslim Uighur minority in northwestern China’s Xinjiang autonomous region, was found guilty by the Urumqi People’s Intermediate Court after a two-day trial that ended last week, Reuters reported.
“This is totally unacceptable,” his lawyer, Li Fangping, told the news agency by telephone.
“Ilham also said that he is innocent. He will appeal. Based on the wording of the verdict, this case is extremely politicized.”
Prosecutors said Tohti had promoted independence for the region on a website he managed called Uighurbiz.net.
But Tohti told the court he established the website to promote dialogue between Uighur and Han scholars and that he had publicly opposed separatism and violence, the report said.
Tohti also said statements against him by student volunteers who had worked on the website were made under pressure from authorities.
The United States, the European Union and human rights groups have called for Tohti’s release after a nine-month detention widely seen as part of a government crackdown on dissent in Xinjiang, where tension between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese has led to violence, the report said.
The government blames a series of violent attacks in which hundreds have died on Islamist militants who it says want to establish an independent state in the region.
Activists say the government’s repressive policies, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest.
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