China's Xinjiang plane hijackers sentenced to death
A court in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Tuesday sentenced three men to death and another man to life imprisonment after finding them guilty of attempting to hijack an aircraft in June.
The Intermediate People's Court in Hotan Prefecture ruled at the first instance that the men were guilty of organizing, leading or participating in a terrorist group, hijacking the aircraft and attempting to detonate explosives on the aircraft.
Musa Yvsup and Arxidikali Yimin, the leaders of the group who plotted the hijacking, and Eyumer Yimin, a major participant in the planning, were sentenced to death, according to a statement from the court.
Alem Musa, who played a minor role in the plane hijacking and willingly pleaded guilty after being arrested, received a life sentence, said the statement.
All the defendants confessed the above crimes at the court.
On June 29, six people attempted to hijack Tianjin Airlines' flight GS7554 after it took off from Hotan Airport and was 1,400 km away from its destination, the regional capital city of Urumqi. They used converted metal crutches and explosives they carried in disguise, the statement said.
They loudly shouted religious extremist cries, hit the cockpit door and physically and verbally assaulted the flight crew and passengers, according to the statement which quoted court testimony.
They were stopped by crew members and passengers while they were trying to detonate explosive devices, and two of the other hijackers, Ababaykeri Ybelayim and Mametali Yvsup, were injured in the fighting and later died despite medical treatment.
Twenty-four crew members and passengers were injured in the incident, which caused direct economic losses of 28.58 million yuan (4.58 million U.S. dollars), said the statement.
The court found that the group had been influenced by religious extremists and terrorists from October 2011 to February 2012, and made preparations for their hijacking from mid-May to June this year.
The group investigated airport security conditions and the lay-out of the aircraft cabin several times before they conducted the hijacking, and they prepared the tools, including the explosives, metal crutches and lighters, in advance.
The group recruited Mametali Yvsup to participate in the hijacking, and they decided to blow up the aircraft and die along with all the other passengers onboard.
During the court trial, to protect their legal rights, the defendants were allowed to use their native language and were represented by lawyers. Their relatives and members of the public were also present.