BEIJING — A Chinese court convicted a moderate Uighur scholar of separatism and sentenced him to life in prison Tuesday following what human rights advocates called “a show trial” likely to worsen ethnic tensions in the far west of China.
The scholar, Ilham Tohti, had operated a website critical of Chinese policies against Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims who call China’s Xinjiang region their homeland. Authorities arrested him at his home in Beijing in January, following several years of detentions and official harassment.
Along with handing down a life sentence to the 44-year-old economics professor, the court confiscated all of his possessions, according to his lawyers and state media. That means Ilham Tohti’s wife and two young sons may soon be destitute.
Human rights groups deplored the verdict and the trial, which was held last week in a closed court in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Several said there was nothing in Ilham Tohti’s writings or recent history to suggest he supports Xinjiang’s independence movement.
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