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Separatism trial set for Chinese minority scholar

Ilham Tohti Photo: AP

An outspoken Chinese minority Uighur scholar accused of separatism will go on trial Wednesday in the country's northwest, one of his lawyers said.

Liu Xiaoyuan said he has been informed by the court in the city of Urumqi of the date of Ilham Tohti's trial. Tohti, an economics professor, was arrested earlier this year in Beijing amid rising tensions in Xinjiang.

Tohti is accused of activities aimed at overthrowing Chinese rule in Xinjiang, of which Urumqi is the capital. The economist, who taught formerly at a Beijing University where he spoke openly about problems with China's ethnic policies, has rejected the accusations.

Authorities have blamed the deadly conflicts in Xinjiang on terrorists seeking a separate state, and have accused Tohti of fanning ethnic hatred and advocating independence.

Another of his lawyers, Li Fangping, said Tohti has been shackled for more than a month while in lockup. Shortly after he was detained, Tohti went on a hunger strike for 10 days in January to protest being served food that did not follow Islamic dietary laws, Li has said.

He also said Tohti was denied food for 10 days in March after an attack by Uighurs outside a train station killed 31 people in the southern city of Kunming.

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