Seven youths, who were students of jailed Uighur scholar and rights advocate Ilham Tohti, have been given prison terms of up to eight years on charges of separatism, rights lawyers have disclosed.
The students, six of whom are of Uighur ethnicity and one from the Yi ethnic minority, come from the restive Xinjiang region in China's far west, which has increasingly seen violence in the last two years, with about 200 people killed in recent attacks.
On Monday, a Chinese court had handed death sentences to eight people for two attacks in the region.
Tohti himself has been sentenced to life imprisonment for separatism 'splitting the state' and has been accused by prosecutors of 'bewitching and coercing young ethnic students'.
The students have been accused of working on a website with Tohti and 'actively participating in separatist activities', China's Global Times reported.
According to the lawyers, one student was sentenced to eight years, two students were sentenced to seven years in jail, while others have been sentenced to five years, three and a half years and three years.
Several students have been detained since the beginning of the year on charges of separatism.
The seven students who were sentenced to jail were identified as Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Mutellip Imin, Abduqeyyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi and Akbar Imin and Luo Yuwei.
"The verdict was not as harsh as [I had] expected," a lawyer told Global Times. Separatism can be punishable by death in the country.
Tohti, who taught economics at Beijing's Central University for Nationalities, was arrested in January this year.