July 12, 2008 / 4:29 AM / 10 years ago

China executes two Uighurs, jails 15 - RFA

(Adds comments from Uighur group in paragraph 4-6)

BEIJING, July 12 (Reuters) - China has executed two Uighurs and sentenced another 15 to jail for alleged terrorist links, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia said in a report just days after Beijing warned of attacks aimed at the Olympics.

The Kashgar Intermediate People's Court sentenced two men -- Mukhtar Setiwaldi and Abduweli Imin -- to death and immediately executed them after a July 9 public trial in Yengi Sheher county, said RFA, citing local Xinjiang, Uighur and official sources.

The report could not be independently confirmed. Government officials could not be reached immediately on Saturday.

Chinese authorities were using the terrorist allegations as a pretext to persecute Uighurs, said the Uighur American Association (UAA), which strongly condemned the executions.

"Uighur men, women and children in East Turkestan continue to live under an extremely brutal form of repression," said UAA President Rebiya Kadeer.

"They live in a state of constant fear that they will become victims of state violence," said Kadeer.

China said on Thursday it had foiled five "terrorism groups" plotting attacks on the Olympics, and in the first six months of the year, police detained 82 people in the restive far western Xinjiang region for plotting to sabotage the Games.

A day earlier, state media said police had shot and killed five people seeking "holy war" against the country's dominant Han Chinese.

RFA said three of the defendants were given death sentences suspended for two years and the rest prison terms ranging from 10 years to life.

All 17 were accused of being members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing says has ties to terrorists. The group denies the claims.

The government says it has foiled a string of terrorist plots this year hatched from Xinjiang, a mainly Muslim region where Beijing accuses militant Uighurs of working with al Qaeda to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan.

Many Uighurs resent the migration of Han Chinese to the region and government controls on their religion and culture.

Uighur groups deny separatists are plotting attacks in Xinjiang and accuse China of a pre-Olympic security crackdown targeting activists seeking greater freedom for the region. (For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china) (Reporting by Kirby Chien; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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