Hijackers given death sentences

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A CHINESE court has sentenced three men to death and another to life in prison for attempting to hijack a plane in the Xinjiang region in June, state media said, as Beijing cracks down on what it calls violent separatists in the far west of the country.

Passengers and air crew subdued six people who tried to hijack a flight minutes after it took off from the remote desert city of Hotan, a heavily ethnic Uighur area that had been hit by recent bouts of violence.

Earlier, state media reports said two of the men died from injuries sustained on board the plane, but Uighur advocacy groups have questioned the government’s account.

The men confessed and were “guilty of organising, leading or participating in a terrorist group, hijacking the aircraft, and attempting to detonate explosives on the aircraft,” the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the court in Hotan.

Xinjiang is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur people. Many chafe at Chinese government controls on their culture and religion.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said the four had been denied their choice of lawyers.