A lawyer says a Chinese minority scholar accused of separatism and awaiting trial has been shackled on his feet for more than a month.

That treatment of Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uighur scholar, is rare and unnecessarily harsh, his lawyer, Li Fangping, said Thursday.

Tohti was arrested earlier this year amid rising tensions in the western region of Xinjiang between the minority Uighurs and majority Han people. He is awaiting trial in Urumqi, the provincial capital, on charges of splitting the country.

Authorities put shackles on Tohti's ankles on Aug. 9, and they have remained there ever since, he told Li on Thursday.

The prosecuting attorney's office argued that Tohti should be restricted because he had coughed to disturb fellow inmates, which led to scuffles with them.