BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court handed down sentences of up to eight years in prison to seven students of jailed Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti in China’s western Xinjiang region, two rights lawyers said on Tuesday, in a case that has been criticised by the West.
Tohti, China’s most prominent advocate for the rights of Muslim Uighurs, lost his appeal against a life sentence for separatism in November.
During his trial, he rejected the prosecution’s evidence and said statements against him by student volunteers who had worked on a website he managed were made under pressure.
Li Fangping, the lawyer who defended Tohti, said he was told by the students’ lawyer on Monday that they had been sentenced by the intermediate court in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi. Prosecutors had charged the students with separatism, Li said.
“Yesterday, we received information of (sentences) between three and eight years,” Li told Reuters by telephone. “It’s unclear what condition they are in. It is also unclear if they will appeal.”
Liu Xiaoyuan, another lawyer who defended Tohti, confirmed the sentences. A court official contacted about the case declined to comment.