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June 18, 2000 

    

BEIJING, (AP) - A Chinese court has sentenced ten people to death for murdering 28 migrant workers and then collecting 520,000 yuan (dlrs 62,000) in insurance benefits, the state-run China Youth Daily reported Saturday.

      

The Intermediate People's Court in the central city of Jinzhong gave four other ring members suspended death sentences, effectively life imprisonment, and sentenced two others to life and 15 years in prison, the newspaper said. It gave the following account of the crime.

      

For nearly two years ending in October 1998, the 16 gang members lured the migrants with promises of work in coal mines in central Shanxi province. They killed the migrants and staged mine cave-ins and explosions to cover up the murders. Ring members posed as relatives of the migrants to claim death benefits.

 

The China Youth Daily provided few other details of the case and did not say when the court had ruled.

 

Death sentences are supposed to be reviewed by a higher court before being carried out, usually by gunshot. The rulings are seldom overturned and executions are usually carried out swiftly.

 

London-based Amnesty International expressed concern Saturday that a member of a minority ethnic group sentenced to death a year ago in China's restive Muslim northwest may have been executed in secret on Wednesday.

 

Zulikar Memet was arrested in 1998 for "helping separatists" hide or escape, and he claimed at his trial in July 1999 that he had been tortured, Amnesty International said in a statement.

     

Memet is a Uighur, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group, and comes from Yining, among the most volatile parts of China's Central Asian borderland known as Xinjiang. In 1997, police and soldiers in Yining put down one of the largest uprisings against Chinese rule in Xinjiang in recent years.

 

Memet's brother and two others fled to neighboring Kazakstan the following year after Chinese police accused them of being separatists. Arrested by Kazak authorities and returned to China, their fates remain unknown with conflicting reports about whether they had been executed, Amnesty said.

 

Amnesty said Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have given accused separatists secret or summary trials with evidence coming from confessions compelled by torture. On Wednesday, five accused Uighur separatists were sentenced to death and then immediately executed in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, the group said.

 


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