Beijing: Four suspected militants from Muslim-majority Xinjiang, accused of killing 31 people in a knife attack at a railway station in Kunming early this year, went on trial today in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province.

The Kunming Municipal Intermediate People’s Court has opened a public  trial, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

On March 1, a group of assailants armed with knives attacked civilians at the station in the provincial capital in which 31 people were killed and 141 others injured.

Police shot dead four of the attackers and detained the four who are now on trial.

The Kunming Municipal People’s Procuratorate found that the suspects were involved in organising, leading or taking part in the attack as well as intentional homicide.

Prosecutors accuse Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad of organising, leading a terrorist organisation and intentional homicide.

Patigul Tohti is accused of taking part in the attack as well as intentional homicide.

China blamed the attack on East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an al-Qaeda backed organisation active in Xinjiang province where the native Muslim Uygurs were restive over the increasing settlements of Hans from other provinces.

Lawmakers, political advisors and some victims and their relatives are among more than 300 members of the public present at the ongoing trial.

Chinese prosecutors, especially those in Xinjiang, have been asked to fast-track cases involving terrorists, religious extremists and manufacturers of firearms and explosives, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) said.

Also, the Supreme People’s Court instructed courts in Xinjiang to speed up trials of terror cases and deliver exemplary penalties. Counter-terrorism is to be a priority of prosecutors as part of tough measures against the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Human trafficking cases will also be fast-tracked, said a statement issued after a meeting on Xinjiang issues.

The statement emphasised that these cases must be handled without discrimination and under the principle of tempering justice with mercy.

Besides fighting terrorism, prosecutors are instructed to protect legitimate rights and interests of people from all ethnic groups and help implement China’s religious policies amid allegations of discrimination against minorities.

A series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang shocked China this year, with the latest in early August when 37 civilians were killed and another 13 injured in Shache County of Kashgar Prefecture.

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