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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan activist sentenced to 15 years in prison

June 25, 2010

By ANITA CHANG
The Associated Press (AP)
June 25, 2010

BEIJING (AP) -- A Tibetan environmentalist once
praised as a model philanthropist was sentenced
to 15 years in prison Thursday on charges of
grave robbing and dealing in looted antiquities,
in a case supporters said was aimed at punishing his activism.

The trial of Karma Samdrup came after he spoke up
for his two brothers, also activists, who were
detained after accusing local officials in
eastern Tibet of poaching endangered species.
Authorities in tightly controlled Tibet are
extremely sensitive to social activism and
criticism, either explicit or implied.

The cases come amid increased repression of
Tibetan intellectuals, an echo of the massive
security crackdown that followed rioting in the
capital, Lhasa, in 2008 in which at least 22 people died.

In addition to the prison sentence, Karma Samdrup
was stripped of his political rights for five
years and fined 10,000 yuan ($1,500) after a
three-day trial with sessions that lasted until
midnight, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told The Associated Press.

"I want to appeal, I have to appeal," Karma
Samdrup's wife, Zhenga Cuomao, (Dolkar Tso)
quoted him as saying after the verdict was handed
down at the court in remote Yanqi county in the
Xinjiang region adjoining Tibet.

Phones at the court rang unanswered Thursday
night after the verdict was announced.

Pu complained of irregularities in the trial,
including witnesses who testified against Karma
Samdrup that defense attorneys did not recognize.

Karma Samdrup's wife and lawyers have accused
police of torturing him in custody. In his
statement to the court, he said that during
months of interrogation, officers beat him,
deprived him of sleep for days and drugged him
with a substance that made his eyes and ears bleed, they said.

"I cannot recognize him anymore. I can only
recognize his voice," Zhenga Cuomao said. "He
used to be so tall, so strong ... now he looks so fragile."

The charges against Karma Samdrup - named
philanthropist of the year in 2006 by state
broadcaster CCTV - date back to 1998 but were not pursued until this year.

The accusations stem from purchases that Karma
Samdrup made of carpets, wooden artifacts and
other antiques at a shop in Urumqi, the capital
of Xinjiang, Pu said. He added that Karma Samdrup
bought the items because he was interested in
them as a collector, but did not know that they
had been plundered from graves in the region.

Karma Samdrup's younger brother, Chime Namgyal,
is reportedly serving a 21-month sentence in a
labor camp on the vague charge of harming
national security. His older brother, Rinchen
Samdrup, was scheduled to be tried on a similar
charge this week, but that date has been postponed.

Associated Press Writer Isolda Morillo in Beijing contributed to this report.
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