AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Wednesday 12 December 2012
Last update 11 December 2012 9:25 pm
BEIJING: A court in China’s restive Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang sentenced three men to death yesterday after they were found guilty of trying to hijack an aircraft and detonate explosives, state media said.
The men, along with a fourth who received a life prison term, were among a group of six that tried to seize the aircraft after it had taken off from Hotan in the northwestern region and were thwarted by passengers and crew, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a court statement.
The other two-gang members died in the struggle, which also resulted in injuries to 24 crew members and passengers, the statement said.
They were confronted after they tried to “detonate explosive devices,” the statement from the Intermediate People’s Court in Hotan Prefecture said, adding that “converted metal crutches and explosives” were used in the hijacking.
The men attempted to commandeer the Tianjin Airlines flight 1,400 km away from its destination, the regional capital city of Urumqi.
They were influenced by religious extremists and “loudly shouted religious extremist cries” on board the aircraft, the Xinhua report said, citing court testimonies.
“They decided to blow up the aircraft and die along with all the other passengers,” it added.
Ringleaders Musa Yvsup and Arxidikali Yimin, along with Eyumer Yimin, who played a major part in the attempted hijack, were sentenced to death.
Alem Musa received a life sentence as he played a minor role in the incident and showed “a good attitude” after being arrested, according to the statement.
“All the defendants confessed the above crimes at the court,” the report added.
However, Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, disputed the official version of events, claiming that a fight over seating broke out on board the aircraft between a group of Uighurs and Han Chinese, the country’s majority ethnic group.
“The men who were sentenced were not allowed their own lawyers, only those that were given to them by the government,” he said.