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Jailed Chinese Uyghur Wins Prestigious Rights Award

Uyghur activist Ilham Tohti (file photo)

A Chinese academic of Uyghur origin who was jailed for life two years ago for campaigning for the rights of indigenous Uyghurs in China, has been named the winner of a prestigious human rights award.

Ilham Tohti was selected from three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award in Geneva, whose jury is composed of 10 activist groups, including Amnesty International.

Tohti is one of China's most prominent advocates for the rights of the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, who are Muslims.

The Uyghurs -- of whom there are some 15 million in China -- have long complained about their treatment under Beijing's rule.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang dismissed the award, calling Tohti's activism "deeds of a separatist character having nothing to do with human rights."

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the main Uyghur exile group, called the award a "huge encouragement."

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP