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China: Overturn death sentences for Tibet protesters

Amnesty International has condemned a decision by a court in Lhasa to hand down death sentences to two Tibetans, Losang Gyaltse and Loyar, accused of starting fatal fires in Lhasa during protests in March 2008. Two other people were given death sentences with a two year reprieve and one person has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

It is unclear if they will appeal on their sentences but ultimately, China’s Supreme People's Court will have to review today’s death sentences, as it does in all death penalty cases.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director, said:

“Amnesty International condemns the death sentences handed down to Losang Gyaltse and Loyar. We have recorded a pattern of unfair trials leading to death sentences in China. Under these conditions it’s very unlikely that these sentences stand up. We urge the death sentences to be overturned.”

According to a court spokesperson another person, Tenzin Phuntsog, who received a death sentence with a two year reprieve admitted his crime after he was arrested. Torture remains widespread in China where courts fail to exclude evidence extracted through torture. This heightens concerns over Tenzin Phuntsog’s confessions and over his treatment.

According to official reports 76 people have been sentenced in connection with the protests before today’s announcement. Those previously convicted have received sentences ranging from three years fixed term imprisonment to life imprisonment. Most of them have been sentenced for crimes described as “arson, looting, picking quarrels and provoking troubles, assembling a crowd to storm state organs, disrupting public service, and theft”. At least seven people have been sentenced for “espionage” or “unlawfully providing ‘intelligence’ to an organization or individual outside of China”.

More than 1,000 people detained in connection with the protests in March 2008 remain unaccounted for according to the United States Commission on China. The Chinese authorities say 21 people were killed by violent protesters; Tibetan sources claim over 100 Tibetans were killed in the subsequent crackdown.

According to Amnesty International research China carried out at least 1, 718 executions in 2008 and sentenced 7,003 people to death. The government of China continues to restrict access to Tibet raising fears that human rights abuses are under reported.

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