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3 sentenced over needle attacks in Urumqi
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Three Uygurs were given hefty sentences ranging from 7 to 15 years in jail Saturday over syringe stabbings or threatening to use needle attacks for robbery, which triggered public scare in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Court hearings on two cases involving two men and a woman began at about 10 a.m. at the Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi and ended at about 1 p.m..

They were the first court hearings of this kind since hundreds of civilians were injured in a series of hypodermic needle attacks from mid-August.

The court sentenced Yilipan Yilihamu, 19, to 15 years in prison for "attacking with hyped toxic substances" as he was convicted of injecting a hypodermic needle into a woman's buttock on Aug. 28, Shi Xinli, president of the court, told a press conference soon after the court hearing.

The young Uygur was captured hours after the victim reported to police that she was stabbed at a roadside fruit stall.

"His action violated the Criminal Law, caused public panic and led to grave consequences. He deserved the penalty," said Chen Jing, a professor with the Law School of Xinjiang University.

In a separate trial in the same court, Muhutaerjiang Turdi, a 34-year-old man, and Aimannisha Guli, a 22-year-old woman, were sentenced to 10 years in jail with a fine of 5,000 yuan (732 U.S. dollars) and seven years in prison with a fine of 3,000 yuan, respectively, for robbing a taxi driver on Aug. 29, Shi said.

The two drug addicts jointly threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and robbed him of 710 yuan for buying drugs. The woman was captured on the same day of the robbery and the man surrendered to police three days after.

The court also found that the man was given a 14-year jail term for robbery in 2001 and was set free in September last year. The woman was sentenced to one year in prison in January 2007 for theft and was released in October in the same year.

More than 200 people, including family members of the defendants and victims and reporters, were present at the court hearings Saturday, which proceeded in Uygur language according to the defendants' wish with simultaneous interpretation in mandarin.

"The court verdicts were very accurate," said Xu Chun, a lawyer with the Gonglian Law Offices based in Urumqi.

The trials strictly punished crimes and alleviated people's scare, and would contribute to the recovery of the social order, Xu said.

"The defendants did not hire defense lawyers themselves so the court appointed some for them to protect their rights and interests," he added.

"The court made a fair judgment and I think Urumqi people will feel satisfied with it," said Li Yuying, a saleswoman in the city.

She expressed the belief that the government is capable of maintaining social stability and protecting people's security. She called on the authorities to launch quick actions against any possible security threats in the future.

"Only harsh punishment of criminals according to law and return of a safe living environment could heal people's psychological trauma," said Shi Shuhong, a teacher with the No. 35 Primary School of Urumqi.

"In the view of Muslims, the word Muslim means solidarity and stability. A devoted Muslim must love both his country and his religion, and contribute to the national prosperity, to people's health and welfare," said Ma Wenxu, an imam with the Luyuanjie Mosque in the city.

"The court hearings and the judgements were timely and correct, I fully support and welcome them," he said.

"The trials showed the government's determination to crack down upon crimes and to bust any attempts to sabotage social stability, which will help appease public indignation," said Huang Xuanqian, manager of the Urumqi-based Xinle Investment Co. Ltd.

"There was no exodus of business people amid the needle attacks despite plummeting sales. We're always confident of Xinjiang's development prospect," he said.

Hundreds of people have been stabbed by hypodermic syringes or needles in Urumqi, triggering public angst and wrath.

Tens of thousands of residents took to the streets early this month, demanding security guarantees. Five people died and at least 14 were hospitalized for injuries during the protests.

No death nor any cases which need anti-virus drugs have been reported.

The city's public security authorities announced last week that police had caught 45 suspects amid the syringe scare, of whom 12 were in police custody.

Syringe attackers may face harsh punishment in accordance with the law, including life imprisonment and even death penalty if convicted of causing grave consequence, the city's judicial and police authorities have said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2009)

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