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China Sentences Journalist to Life in Prison for Reporting on Riots


BEIJING (AP) — A Uighur journalist who worked for an official Chinese radio service was sentenced to life imprisonment for transmitting information about the 2009 ethnic riots in western China — one of dozens jailed since the violence, an overseas Uighur advocacy group said.

Memetjan Abdulla, a 33-year-old journalist with the Uighur language service of China National Radio, was sentenced during a closed-door trial in April in Urumqui, Xinjiang's capital, said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress.

Information about the sentencing has only recently emerged from local Uighurs, Raxit told the AP in an e-mail late Thursday.

Abdulla was charged with helping incite riots in July 2009 between Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighurs in which nearly 200 people died, according to Radio Free Asia. The riots had followed Uighur protests over the beating deaths of factory workers in another part of China.

Abdulla translated a call issued by the World Uyghur Congress for Uighurs in exile to protest the beating deaths in their host countries. The call had appeared on a Chinese website, and Abdulla translated it and reposted it on a Uighur-language website that he managed, according to Radio Free Asia and Raxit.

The Uyghur Congress spokesman defended Abdulla as a journalist and expressed concern about his current condition.

"We demand the court release the details of the trial to the public," Raxit said. "He was just carrying out his duty as a professional reporter. He challenged the authority's information block and tried to let the public know more."

An official at China National Radio in charge of publicity, surnamed Xu, said he was unaware of the case and referred questions to the personnel department. Calls there went unanswered Friday.

Officials at the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court also denied knowledge of the case.

China has sentenced dozens of people for their involvement in the riots, most of them Uighurs. The riots were the deadliest outbreak of violence in Xinjiang in years, and China blamed the violence on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in the province.

Ethnic tensions have simmered in western Xinjiang for years, with many Uighurs resentful of Beijing's heavy-handed rule. China says it respects minority rights and has boosted living standards and economies in minority areas such as Xinjiang.

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