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China Executes Nine Over Xinjiang Riots

Security forces march on the streets in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, on July 10.

Security forces march on the streets in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, on July 10.

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China has executed nine people convicted of violent crimes during ethnic rioting in the far western Xinjiang region in July, the first to be put to death over the unrest, the China News Service has said.

Almost 200 people died in the rioting between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, which was the worst ethnic violence in decades in the majority Muslim region.

The nine were executed after a judicial review by the country's supreme court, the semi-official news agency said on its website. It did not give further details.

Death sentences have previously been announced for nine people, and suspended death sentences, which are often commuted to life sentences, for another three.

Judging by their names, at least two of those sentenced were Han Chinese, while the others appeared to be Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group that calls Xinjiang its homeland.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, condemned the executions and said the government had denied the prisoners' rights by denying them a final visit from their families.

"They have not respected Chinese law in the trials or in carrying out the sentencing. This is not justice. We believe that the United States and Europe have not put enough pressure on China to resolve this issue," Raxit said.

Twenty people were indicted on November 9 on charges related to the deaths of 18 people, destruction of property and other crimes during the rioting, the China News Service added.

In July's ethnic violence, Uyghurs attacked majority Han Chinese in regional capital Urumqi after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uyghur workers at a factory in southern China in June that left two Uyghurs dead.

Han Chinese in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.

The violence left 197 people, mostly Han Chinese, dead and wounded more than 1,600, according to official figures.