Amidst the increasing deadly clashes in the turbulent Xinjiang region, China has indicted Uighur scholar and rights advocate Ilham Tohti on charges of "splitting the state."
The charges of Separatism is dealt with utmost firmness in China and the crime often carries a potential death sentence.
The SMH citing a Fairfax Media reported that the accused scholar has the reputation of being an outspoken but moderate Uighur rights advocate. However, despite this the Communist Party has blamed him for being a separatist leader, who through his website and his position as University lecturer, inspired students to protest violently.
"He is not charged with incitement, but of directly splitting the regime," his lawyer Li Fangping was quoted by the daily. "What he has done is to advocate for human rights of Uighurs, and he completely denies such charges: he neither said nor did anything to advocate for Uighur independence."
The indictment of the popular Uighur academic has been criticized widely.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch said there is no publicly available evidence that Tohti incited violence or committed any other crime. The New York-based Human Rights group claimed the charges against Tohti "deeply disturbing" as Chinese authorities can now sentence Tohti to death penalty, reported Voice of America.
The Uighur American Association called the indictment charges "ludicrous" while stating that the trial against Tohti is not going to be fair.
US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf also called for the immediate release of the scholar. "We are concerned about reports that China has indicted prominent economics professor Ilham Tohti," Harf was quoted by the daily.
The 44-year-old Tohti, who taught economics at Beijing's Central University for Nationalities, was arrested in January this year.
The latest violence in China occurred on Monday in Shache county near Kashgar, where according to the Chinese officials a knife-wielding mob attacked a police station, government offices and civilians, following which the police opened gunfire and killed dozens from the violent mob.
The Uighur groups living in exile, however, claim that the Chinese police violently cracked down on a group of Muslims, protesting the repression of the Communist regime.