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2 sentenced to death as judges decide cases from Lhasa riots

A LHASA court yesterday sentenced two people to death after finding them guilty of starting fatal fires in last year's riots in the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China.

Two others were given death sentences with a two-year reprieve, and another faces life imprisonment, also on arson charges, said a spokesman for the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court. Death sentences with reprieves are usually commuted to life terms on good behavior.

The five were tried in three separate arson cases, in which a total of seven people were killed and five shops torched in the March riots.

Another arson case, involving the deaths of five people and a destroyed shop, is still being tried.

Among those convicted yesterday, Losang Gyaltse received a death penalty for setting fire to two garment shops in Lhasa that killed shop owner Zuo Rencun.

In another case, defendants identified as Loyar, Gangtsu and Dawa Sangpo torched a motorcycle dealership in Lhasa's Dagze County. Five people, including shop owner Liang Zhiwei, Liang's wife, his eight-month-old son and two employees, were killed.

Loyar received a death penalty, Gangtsu was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, and Dawa Sangpo got life imprisonment.

In the third case, Tenzin Phuntsog was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for setting fire to a garment shop that spread to a neighboring property in downtown Lhasa.

Shop owner Liu Guobing and his wife were injured, and Liu's daughter was burned to death.

"His crime deserves the death penalty, but the judges took into consideration that he had been put up to the violence and showed a positive attitude in admitting his crime after he was arrested," the court spokesman said.

"The three arson cases are among the crimes that led to the worst consequences in the March 14 riot," he said. "Their crimes involved great losses to people's lives and property and severely undermined the social order, security and stability.

"The two defendants given death penalties had committed extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger."


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