A Chinese court on Friday sentenced three people to death for their part in masterminding the Kunming Train Station attack in March that killed 31 and injured 141, according to Xinhua. Another suspect was sentenced to life for taking part in the massacre.
The attack, which took place on March 1, shook the nation with scenes of bloody carnage strewn across the railway station floor. The Chinese government blamed Islamic extremists from Xinjiang for the attack and launched its own war on terror in response.
Three suspects—Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad—were sentenced by the Kunming Municipal Intermediate People’s Court to death for “leading and organizing a terror group” as well as intentional homicide. They did not take part in the attack, instead they were arrested two days before trying to leave the country, according to the BBC.
The lone female suspect, Patigul Tohti, was sentenced to life for participating in the attack and homicide. She, along with four other men, indiscriminately stabbed and killed dozens of commuters. Her accomplices were all killed by police—reportedly shot dead by a single SWAT sniper. Authorities said that though her crimes were “extremely severe,” they could not sentence her to death, because she was pregnant when she was captured.
The trial began on Friday morning and only lasted a few hours, with China looking to fast-track cases involving terrorism. Trials are usually closed in China, but Xinhua reported that more than 300 members of the public were allowed to attend the trial—these included victims and their relatives.
Still, little is known about the attackers and the planners. According to the LA Times:
Brief video of the trial, aired on state broadcaster China Central Television, did not make clear whether the defendants contested the charges or what kind of legal representation they had, if any. But government-run media made a point of saying that the court hired translators “to help the defendants communicate in their native language during the trial.”
Authorities did not identify what language the defendants spoke, or provide details on their hometowns or other personal details. However the spelling of their names suggested they are ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority concentrated in China’s far west province of Xinjiang.
Many of those killed and injured by the attack were migrant workers. You can hear some of their stories here.
by Alex Linder
[Image via Xinhua & CCTV]