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Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:42 UK

China jails 17 over Tibet riots

Residents look at pictures of Tibetan protesters wanted by the authorities (27 March 2008)
These are the first batch of sentences announced since the protests

A court in Tibet has jailed 17 people for taking part in riots in the capital Lhasa last month, Chinese state media has said.

The prison terms are reported to range from three years to life.

Anti-China protests led by Buddhist monks began in Lhasa on 10 March and gradually escalated into rioting.

China says at least 19 people were killed by the rioters - but Tibetan exiles say that nearly 100 were killed by the Chinese security forces.

A court in Lhasa handed down the verdicts at an "open trial" attended by more than 200 people, including Buddhist monks, medical workers and "masses from all walks of life", state television reported.

"Arson"

Seven schools, five hospitals and more than 100 homes were set on fire in the violence, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The court said that one of the two men sentenced to life imprisonment had been convicted of "arson and disrupting public services." It said the other had attacked fire engines and police stations and assaulted firemen.

Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for orchestrating the unrest in an attempt to sabotage this summer's Beijing Olympics and promote Tibetan independence. He has strongly denied this.

The European Parliament has urged EU leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, unless China starts talks with the Dalai Lama.

On Friday Beijing announced it would resume talks with his representatives. But it says the details of the contact "have still to be discussed".

Tibet and the surrounding provinces where the protests took place have been closed to foreigners since the unrest.

It is unclear how many people are facing prosecution across China for their role in the rioting.





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