BEIJING – In front of a stadium of 7,000 people, a court in China's restive northwest announced guilty verdicts for 55 people on charges of terrorism, separatism and murder.
It was a show of force as the government tries to show its determination to combat unrest in Xinjiang after last week's attack killed 43 people at a vegetable market in the regional capital, Urumqi.
At least one convict received a death sentence at the event Tuesday in Yili, in northern Xinjiang near the Kazakhstan border, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It said the audience was made up of local residents and officials.
The report gave few details about the cases, but defendants whose names were reported all appeared to be Uighurs, members of the region's biggest Muslim ethnic minority group.
On Tuesday, authorities said police in southwestern Xinjiang foiled a bomb plot and arrested five people. The government says more 200 people have been detained this month in Xinjiang and 23 extremist groups broken up, though it has released no details about them.
The government says unrest among Uighurs is caused by extremist groups with ties to Islamic terror groups abroad, but experts say they see little evidence of that.
Uighur activists say public resentment against Beijing is fueled by an influx of settlers from China's Han ethnic majority and official discrimination against minorities.
Among Tuesday's cases, three defendants were convicted of using unspecified "extremely cruel methods" to kill four people, including a 3-year-old girl, in the city of Yining on April 20, 2013, according to Xinhua.
Officials of the Yili branch of the Xinjiang High Court also announced the arrests and detentions of an additional 65 people for offenses including separatism, covering up crimes and rape, Xinhua said.
Photos showed armed soldiers standing guard next to the stadium's running track with the defendants, dressed in orange vests worn by Chinese jail prisoners, grouped together in the center.
In Thursday's attack, men driving off-road vehicles drove through the crowded market throwing explosives. Police said four suspects were killed at the scene and a fifth was caught Thursday evening in an area about 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of Urumqi.