Beijing, February 9: China has executed a Uighur activist in a far-northwestern city for attempting to â€œsplit the motherlandâ€ and possessing explosives, drawing condemnation from a human rights group, which said the evidence was insufficient.
Ismail Semed, who was deported to China from Pakistan in 2003, had told the court a confession had been coerced, but he was executed nevertheless on Thursday in Urumqi, capital of the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, Radio Free Asia on Friday quoted his widow, Buhejer, as saying.
â€œWhen the body was transferred to us at the cemetery I saw only one bullet hole in his heart,â€ Buhejer told the US government-funded radio.
The exile group, the World Uighur Congress, said the prosecution had presented no credible evidence for a conviction.
â€œHis trial, like most Uighur political prisonersâ€™ trials, was not fair,â€ it said in an emailed statement.
A spokeswoman for the Urumqi Intermediate Peopleâ€™s Court said a group of people had been executed on Thursday but said she had no knowledge of specific cases. The Xinjiang regional government declined to comment.
Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs account for 8 million of the 19 million people in Xinjiang.
The radio said the charge of attempting to split the motherland stemmed from the allegation that Semed was a founding member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, outlawed by Beijing as a terrorist group.
But Nicholas Bequelin, Hong Kong-based China researcher of Human Rights Watch, said: â€œThe death penalty was widely disproportionate to the alleged crimes … his trial did not meet minimum requirements of fairness and due process.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t think there was sufficient evidence to condemn him,â€ Bequelin added.
China has waged a harsh campaign in recent years against what it says are violent separatists and Islamic extremists struggling to set up an independent â€œEast Turkestanâ€ in Xinjiang, which shares a border with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.
Buhejer met her husband briefly on Monday shortly after being informed of the decision to execute him, RFA said.
â€œ(It was) only for 10 minutesâ€ that they were allowed to meet, she was quoted as saying.
He told her to â€œtake care of our children and let them get a good educationâ€. The couple has a young son and daughter.
Semed had previously served two prison sentences for taking part in a violent uprising in 1990. He fled to Pakistan after a Chinese government crackdown in 1997.
Two other Uighurs who testified against Semed were also executed, RFA quoted unnamed sources in the region as saying.
In a reference to another case currently in court in Urumqi, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday Canadian diplomats had no right to be present at the hearing of Hussayin Celil, a Uighur accused by China of terrorism who was awarded Canadian citizenship two years ago.
Celil, also known as Yu Shanjiang, fled China in the 1990s and travelled last year to Uzbekistan, where he was detained and then extradited to China on terrorism charges.
He was cited in court documents related to Semed as a co-conspirator, Bequelin said. China has not recognised Celilâ€™s Canadian citizenship, obtained in 2005.