BEIJING (AFP) – A prominent Chinese scholar from the Uighur ethnic group who was jailed for life because of remarks he made in university classes has appealed the verdict, his lawyer said Friday.
Ilham Tohti, a former professor, was handed the sentence on a charge of “separatism” by a court in the vast western region of Xinjiang last week, provoking an outcry from rights groups, as well as the United States and European Union.
Lawyers for Tohti, 44, formally filed an appeal on Wednesday, his lawyer Li Fangping told AFP.
China’s courts are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist party, and appeals in criminal cases rarely result in a change of verdict.
“In these kind of political cases, appeals are normally unsuccessful. It’s about expressing an attitude,” Li added.
The case against Tohti was in part based on recordings of university lectures in which he said that Xinjiang “firstly belonged to the Uighur ethnic group”, rather than China’s Han majority, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.