World Bulletin/News Desk
China has jailed almost two dozen people including "wild imams who preach illegally" in the western region of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) that is home to a mostly Muslim minority group known as Uighurs, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.
The 22 suspects were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 16 years at a mass public sentencing in Xinjiang on Monday, the state-controlled China News Service reported.
As well as the imams, or Muslim religious leaders, those sentenced included religious leaders who engaged in religious activities after being sacked, as well as those who broke the law while at their posts, it said.
Others were accused of inciting ethnic hatred, using superstition to destroy the law, and picking quarrels and provoking trouble, it said.
Exiles and activists say Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighur people is more a cause of the violence than any well-organised militant groups.
The exiled World Uyghur Congress condemned the sentencing in a statement, saying it was religious repression that trampled on the rights of the Uighur people.
"The so-called distinction between legal and illegal religion is determined based on China's political needs," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the group.
"Uighurs basically have no rights to faith."
Mass public sentencings have become common in Xinjiang, with state television often showing them taking place in packed outdoor auditoriums. Rights groups have said mass trials and sentencings deny the accused the right to due process.
A court in September jailed for life the country's most prominent advocate for Uighur rights in a case that provoked an outcry in the West and among rights groups.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Kasım 2014, 09:45