China court reduces sentences for repentant terrorists, separatists

A court in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region recently reduced the sentences of 11 people, including the former heads of a terrorist cell and a separatist group, who were imprisoned for endangering national security.

The terms were reduced because the convicts demonstrated repentance and regret, the regional politics and law committee said on Tuesday.

Xinjiang People's High Court in the regional capital of Urumqi reduced the sentences of seven people from life in prison to fixed terms.

The seven include Memettohut Memetroz, 42, who received terrorist training in Afghanistan and later founded the East Turkestan Islamic Party with the former head of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is listed by the United Nations as a terrorist group. He set up training camps in Afghanistan and trained Xinjiang people to carry out violent attacks.

Yushanjon Jilili and Memetjon Abudulkadeer also had their life sentences reduced. Yushanjon, who joined the East Turkestan Islamic Movement abroad and later become a key member, used his identity as an imam to carry out separatist and terrorist activities. Memetjon, who has a doctoral degree, used his profession as a university teacher to recruit members for separatist groups, the court ruled.

Four others had their sentences reduced by six months, including one who was subsequently released from prison.

Memettohut said that when he began to serve his sentence in February 2005, he was still quite troubled and confused because he was under the influence of religious extremism. Since the prison regularly invites religious leaders to give lectures about the real Islam, he gradually came to understand that what he had done, such as plotting several terrorist attacks in China and abroad, was unforgivable under Islam.

He now realises the huge damage he caused to people and the country, he said while giving a speech to other inmates in the prison on Monday. He will never forget the day his sentence was reduced, he added.

Yushanjon, 48, said it was like waking up from a nightmare when he realised what real Islam is and what religious extremism had done to him. He said he deeply regretted ruining many young people's lives by passing on terrorist and extremist thoughts to them, he said.

Xinjiang has gained great experience in transforming those imprisoned for crimes of endangering national security into responsible citizens, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang, said on Monday.

Zhang Chunxian, top leader of Xinjiang, said the door of hope will always be open if those who commit crimes that endanger national security make efforts to turn their lives around.

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