Reuters International

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China's violence-prone western region of Xinjiang will prosecute a former judge who reduced penalties and let off people suspected of terrorism, a regional government said.

Hundreds have died in recent years in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, though rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

Fulati Qiuwaer was a senior judge in Aksu, in heavily Uighur southwestern Xinjiang, but had been sacked and expelled from the ruling Communist Party for his leniency in dealing with terror suspects, the Aksu branch of the party's anti-graft watchdog said.

"Fulati Qiuwaer seriously contravened the party's political discipline, and exonerated crimes and reduced penalties for those suspected of endangering security and violent terror," it said in a short statement issued on Tuesday.

The agency also accused Fulati Qiuwaer of siphoning off confiscated funds and seeking payments from people involved in court cases.

His case had been handed over to judicial authorities, it added, meaning he will face prosecution.

It was not possible to reach him for comment and unclear if he has been allowed to retain a lawyer.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the main Uighur exile group, said Fulati Qiuwaer was being punished for trying to ensure Uighur suspects' legal rights were protected while in custody.

Calls to the Aksu branch of the party's anti-graft watchdog seeking comment were not answered.

The government strongly denies committing any abuses in Xinjiang and insists the legal, cultural and religious rights of the Uighur people are fully protected.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Robert Birsel)

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