New York, August 2, 2010—Three Uighur-language website managers were sentenced Friday to prison terms of three to 10 years after being found guilty under broad charges of “endangering state security.” The men had been jailed after ethnic rioting in July 2009 in Urumqi, capital of the far-western, predominantly Muslim, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Nijat Azat, who managed the website Shabnam, was sentenced to a 10-year prison term; Dilixiati Paerhati, whose ran the website Diyarim, was given a five-year term; and the webmaster of Salkin, who goes by the single name Nureli, was sentenced to three years.
The sites, all of which have been shut down by the government, had run news articles and discussion groups concerning Uighur issues. In its coverage, The New York Times cited friends and family members of the men as saying they were prosecuted for failing to quickly delete content that openly discussed the difficulties of life in Xinjiang and, in one case, for allowing users to post messages publicizing the protests that turned violent in July 2009.
“One year after the rioting that swept through parts of Urumqi and Xinjiang, China is silencing Uighur voices,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “These sentences should be overturned by the court system immediately.”
The rulings came just days after another Uighur journalist and website manager was sentenced to a lengthy prison term on antistate charges. Gheyret Niyaz was sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 23, according to news reports. All of the court proceedings were conducted behind closed doors, according to the media reports.
On Friday, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders published a letter signed by many well-known Chinese activists protesting the 15-year prison term given to Gheyret Niyaz.