July 30, 2010 / 6:29 AM / 9 years ago

RPT-China sends 3 Uighur webmasters to jail-activists

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BEIJING, July 30 (Reuters) - China has jailed three ethnic Uighur webmasters for three to 10 years, an activist group said on Friday, a week after a Uighur journalist was sentenced to 15 years for "endangering state security".

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) said the three men had founded or managed websites popular among Uighurs, the minority group that has traditionally dominated China’s remote and restive far western region of Xinjiang.

They were among a number of Uighur journalists, bloggers and webmasters detained after deadly ethnic unrest engulfed the regional capital, Urumqi, in July 2009.

The longest sentence of 10 years was handed down to Nijat Azat, who managed the website Shabnam.

Dilshat Perhat, the 28-year-old webmaster and owner of the Diyarim website, was given five years, UAA said, citing his brother Dilmurat Perhat, who lives in Britain.

The webmaster of Salkin, who goes by the single name Nureli, was sentenced to three years. All three were tried behind closed doors, the group said.

Dilmurat Perhat said his brother had not broken the law, deleting postings about last year’s protest.

"We didn’t do anything against the Chinese government on the Diyarim website," he was quoted saying. "There were tens of thousands of people accessing the website every day."

The Xinjiang government could not be reached for comment.

A Chinese court in Xinjiang last week sentenced journalist Gheyret Niyaz to 15 years on charges of endangering state security by speaking to foreign journalists, according to his employer. [ID:nTOE66M061]

Last July, nearly 200 people died in violence that exploded across Urumqi after a protest by the Turkic Uighurs, who fear they are being marginalised by Han Chinese immigrants.

Most of the dead from the first night of violence were Han Chinese killed by Uighur mobs, but Han gangs seeking vengeance turned on Uighurs in the following days.

There has since been a security crackdown and a string of detentions has decimated the small Uighur online community.

China blocked off the Internet, text messaging and most international calls as it tried to reassert control after the violence and only restored full Internet access in May. (Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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