China sentences four Tibetans to death for March 2008 Lhasa riots

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London, Apr 9 (ANI): A court in Tibet has sentenced four people to death for their part in rioting in Lhasa last year.

Fierce anti-China riots broke out in Lhasa in March last year and spread across Tibet as China was preparing to host the Beijing Olympic Games.

Two of the four death sentences are suspended and could be changed to life sentences if the defendants demonstrate good behaviour. A fifth person was given a life sentence.

The first known death penalty cases in the region since 2002 were handed down yesterday by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court.

Tibetan exile groups have condemned the convictions, which they say are politically motivated and carried out without adequate legal safeguards.

Lobsang Gyaltsen will be executed for arson attacks on two garment shops in central Lhasa on March 14 that killed a shop owner. The same sentence was handed down to Loyak for torching a motorcycle dealership in Deqen Township, which left five people dead, The Guardian reported.

Suspended death penalties were passed on an accomplice, Kangtsuk, and on Tenzin Phuntsok who reportedly confessed to starting a separate lethal fire. A fifth defendant is still being tried.

"The three arson cases are among the crimes that led to the worst consequences in the March 14 riot," the court spokesman was quoted by Xinhua, as saying. "Their crimes incurred great losses to people's lives and property and severely undermine the social order, security and stability."

Free Tibet attacked the sentences, saying that they lacked legal safeguards:

China's state media claimed the trials were open and the defendants were represented by lawyers, but there was no way to assess this claim as access to Tibet is heavily restricted for foreign reporters. (ANI)

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