August 5, 2008 / 3:26 PM / in 10 years

Spanish court to probe Chinese on Tibet deaths

MADRID, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Spain’s High Court said on Tuesday it would investigate seven high-ranking Chinese officials over accusations that they oversaw widespread killing and torture to suppress this year’s protests in Tibet.

In a ruling three days before the Olympic Games open in China, the high court — which prosecuted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet — accepted the case from Tibetan rights groups.

Among those accused of violent suppression of anti-Chinese protests are China’s Defence Minister Liang Guanglie and Tibet’s hardline Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli.

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Spain were not immediately available for comment.

The complaint was submitted by the Tibet House Foundation, Support Tibet Committee and Tubten Wanghen Sherpa Sherpa.

The court said the accusation was that the officials had "directed widespread and systematic attacks against Tibet’s civilian population, causing at least 203 deaths, over 1,000 serious injuries and 5,972 illegal detentions and disappearances".

China has blamed Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his government-in-exile for plotting the unrest in which Beijing says at least 18 "innocent civilians" were killed by Tibetan mobs in the regional capital, Lhasa.

Activists say many more Tibetans were killed in later demonstrations and a crackdown across the region.

Judge Santiago Pedraz Gomez said the court would start to hear evidence in September from Tibetan human rights activists.

The Tibet case follows a February decision by Spain’s high court to prosecute 40 Rwandan military and political leaders for organising the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including nine Spaniards, during the 1990s. (Reporting by Sarah Morris; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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