Former head of Xinjiang jailed for life over graft

BEIJING, China – One of China's highest-ranking Uighur officials and the former head of the troubled northwest Xinjiang region was sentenced on Monday, December 2, to life in prison over graft charges, a court said.

It is among the most high-profile cases in President Xi Jinping's sweeping campaign against corruption in the ruling Communist Party, which critics have compared to a political purge.

Nur Bekri, an ethnic Uighur who was most recently head of China's national energy administration, pleaded guilty to accepting over 79 million yuan ($11.2 million) worth of bribes over the course of twenty years, according to the Shenyang Intermediate People's Court in northeast China.

Investigators claimed he had used his position to live "extravagantly" and benefit himself and his family, buying luxury cars and doling out favours to others.

In the courtroom, Bekri said he would "obey the verdict and not appeal', said the Shenyang court on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.

In addition to life imprisonment, Bekri was "deprived of political rights for life" and all his personal assets were confiscated.

The Uighur minority populates Xinjiang, where an estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are held in internment camps which Beijing defends as "vocational education centres" used for counter-terrorism purposes.

During Bekri's tenure in the region he oversaw one of its deadliest periods of violence, including riots in 2009 that left nearly 200 dead.

At the time, Bekri vowed to "curb violent crimes with an iron hand," according to state media.

Bekri had worked his way up in his native Xinjiang – eventually rising to deputy party secretary and government chairman in the far western region – before serving as head of the National Energy Agency.

He also served as deputy director of the country's top economic planning office, making him one of the highest-ranking Uighur officials.

China's anti-graft agency announced last September that Bekri was being investigated for "serious violations of Party disciplinary rules and laws" and in March the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) said he had been expelled from the Communist Party.

In photos released by China's highest court, the former head of Xinjiang was shown wearing all black and flanked by police officers in the courtroom.

He looked gaunt and noticeably thinner compared to photos from March 2018. –