By Radio Free Asia
An imam and eight farmers from a village in Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture are serving prison sentences from seven to nine years for practicing their religion during China’s “strike hard” campaign to crack down on ethnic Uyghurs in the country’s restive northwestern Xinjiang region, according to local residents and officials.
The imam, Eziz Emet, 47, who was arrested in May 2015, received a nine-year sentence last September for teaching religion illegally in the prefecture’s Peyshenbebazar village, while the farmers each received a seven-year sentence for praying together in places that authorities had not designated for Muslim worship, according to information recently obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Among the farmers were Turdi Mamut, 57, Turdi Abla, 35, Tursun Mamut, 61, Ismail Awut, 62, Ablikim Tursun, 17, Exet Awut, 25, Abla Awut, 59, and Memet Setirash,42, all of whom authorities arrested in September of 2014 and sentenced last February, said Mamut Awut, security chairman of Peyshenbebazar village.
Although the sentencings occurred six to 13 months ago, a letter from a village resident sent recently to RFA said the imam and the farmers had now joined the ranks of political prisoners who number one per every three families in Peyshenbebazar—an unusually high figure for a village where about 300 families comprise a population of 1,500 people.
“I know that eight farmers were sentenced for seven years for praying together,” Awut said. “We warned them not to say Friday prayers separately, not following the designated imam, but they had prayed on Fridays together in different places four times in six months."
The farmers also had organized religious gatherings at other people’s homes, he said.
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