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Court jails 39 in restive Xinjiang as China aims to ratchet up security

BEIJING -- Courts in China's ethnically divided Xinjiang region, home to mainly Muslim Uighurs, have jailed 39 people for offenses including spreading “terrorist videos,” state media said Wednesday as Beijing tightens security after several deadly attacks.

The 39 were given prison sentences of up to 15 years, the state run China News Service (CNS) said, adding that several had “organized, led and participated” in terrorist organizations.

In the past year Xinjiang has seen an increase in violent clashes that Beijing blames on organized terrorist groups seeking independence for the region.

Critics say the security threat in Xinjiang is exaggerated by Beijing to justify hardline measures, and instead point to economic inequality and cultural and religious repression of Uighurs as causes of unrest.

The 39 were detained on suspicion of “spreading violent terrorist videos,” CNS said. The names of several of the accused suggested they were ethnic Uighurs.

The heaviest sentences, of 14 and 15 years, went to two suspects accused of encouraging “holy war,” it said.

Some of the suspects had been found to have “incited ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination,” while others had been involved in the illegal manufacture of firearms, it added.

Six courts handed down the sentences on Tuesday, the report said, including one in the western county of Aksu which has seen a number of violent clashes in the past year.

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