[JURIST] The Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang province on Monday sentenced to death [Xinhua report] six men convicted of murder and other crimes such as arson and robbery for their roles in July's violent demonstrations [JURIST news archive] that left about 200 people dead and many more injured. A seventh man was given life imprisonment because he confessed to his crime and aided the police in finding the other culprits. Although the mens' ethnicities were not publicized, their names suggest that they are all Uighurs. The verdict comes after Chinese officials said Saturday that 21 people will be put on trial [JURIST report] for crimes such as arson, robbery, and murder. Since the riots, more than 100 people have been charged. The seven men sentenced Monday were the first to be convicted in connection with the riots.
In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] in Urumqi between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [JURIST report] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although Uighur advocacy groups maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.