China targets ‘wild imams’ in mass public sentencing

An Imam calls on Muslim Uighurs for their afternoon prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

An Imam calls on Muslim Uighurs for their afternoon prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters)China has jailed almost two dozen people including “wild imams” who preach illegally in the western region of Xinjiang where the government says Islamists are waging a violent campaign for a separate state, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.

The 22 suspects were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 16 years at a mass public sentencing in Xinjiang on Monday, the state-controlled China News Service reported.

As well as the imams, or Muslim religious leaders, those sentenced included religious leaders who engaged in religious activities after being sacked, as well as those who broke the law while at their posts, it said.

Others were accused of inciting ethnic hatred, using superstition to destroy the law, and picking quarrels and provoking trouble, it said.

Xinjiang is home to a mostly Muslim minority group known as Uighurs.

China has vowed to crack down on religious extremism, which it blames for a string of violent attacks this year in Xinjiang and elsewhere. Exiles and activists say Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighur people is more a cause of the violence than well-organized militant groups.

 

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