A court in western China's Xinjiang region has sentenced six ethnic Uighurs to death for crimes committed during ethnic riots in July that killed almost 200 people.
The six men sentenced Monday were the first to go on trial for their actions during clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority ethnic Han group - the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.
The court in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, convicted the men of murder, arson, robbery and other crimes. Chinese state media say a seventh Uighur was given life in prison - a lesser punishment - because he helped police capture another suspect.The exiled World Uighur Congress said the trial was unfair, and warned that carrying out the death sentences would aggravate tensions in the region. A Xinjiang government spokesman Li Jie said the court's ruling was impartial.
The World Uighur Congress said those on trial in Urumqi were prevented from choosing their own lawyers, and forced to accept state-appointed counsel.
Han Chinese, who are a large majority of the population in Urumqi, had demanded severe punishment for those involved in rioting three months ago.
Chinese authorities tightened security around the courthouse ahead of Monday's verdicts, which covered only seven of the 21 people charged in connection with the unrest.
Violence erupted in Urumqi on July 5, after Uighurs protested against the deaths of two Uighur factory workers in a brawl with Han Chinese in southern China's Guangdong province. Some of the Uighur protesters attacked ethnic Han people in the regional capital, and the Han Chinese staged revenge attacks on Uighurs two days later. Chinese authorities said 197 people died in the riots.
A court in southern China sentenced one man to death and another to life in prison last week for their role in the original factory clash that triggered the rioting in Xinjiang. The names of those two men suggest they are ethnic Han.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.