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Syringe attackers get up to 15 years in jail
By Cui Jia and Cai Ke (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-14 06:47

URUMQI: No radioactive, toxic or viral substances, such as AIDS, were found in blood samples taken from victims of the recent spate of syringe attacks in Urumqi after being tested at a laboratory in Beijing, an expert said Sunday.

But Qian Jun, director of Disease Control and Biological Security Office with China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences, said: "Although no radioactive or toxic substances were found, some patients showed various levels of anxiety and depression and have been recommended for psychological counseling."

On Saturday, the first group of syringe attack suspects went on trial in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, following a series of attacks on at least 500 people in the city since mid-August.

Two men and a woman were given sentences ranging from seven to 15 years in jail for syringe stabbings or robberies in which they threatened their victims with needles. Both trials took place in the Uygur language according to the defendants' wishes, with interpretation in Mandarin.

The court sentenced 19-year-old Yilipan Yilihamu to 15 years in prison for injecting a hypodermic needle into a woman's buttocks on Aug 28 at a roadside fruit stall.

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Yilihamu initially denied the charge but later changed his plea to guilty after evidence was shown in court. He plans to appeal.

"The penalty given to Yilihamu is appropriate because his action caused public panic and led to grave consequences. He violated the Criminal Law," Chen Jing, a professor with the Law School of Xinjiang University, told China Daily.

"It's only been just over two weeks between the arrest and sentencing of the suspect. The speedy trials showed the government's determination to crack down on crime and to foil any attempts to undermine social stability."

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) and seven years in prison with a fine of 3,000 yuan respectively, for robbing a taxi driver on Aug 29.

The two threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and robbed him of 710 yuan in order to buy drugs. Guli was captured on the day of the robbery and Turdi turned himself in to police three days after.

The court also found that Turdi was given a 14-year jail term for robbery in 2001 and was released in September last year. Guli was sentenced to a year in prison in January 2007 for theft and released in October of the same year.

"The court made a fair judgment," Xu Chun, a lawyer with the Gonglian Law Office based in Urumqi, told China Daily.

But some Urumqi residents believe the suspects should have received harsher sentences.

"I think all three of them should get at least life imprisonment as they have caused a massive scare among people and everyone in the city has been deeply affected," a 27-year-old Urumqi resident speaking on condition of anonymity said Sunday.

On the other hand, people with comparatively wider knowledge of law believe the punishment was accurate and appropriate.

"Given the consequences of the criminals' crimes, objectively speaking, such a result is enough to punish them as well as sound an alarm to the general public", said 72-year-old Ma Wenxu, an imam with the Luyuanjie Mosque in the city.

Xinhua contributed to the story