China has sentenced a revered Tibetan living Buddha to eight-and-a-half years in jail on charges of illegally occupying government land and possession of weapons.
The court in the western town of Kangding handed down the conviction more than eight months after Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche’s trial. It marked the first time a Tibetan arrested following last year’s riots had been allowed to select his own defence lawyers.
The monk was arrested on March 28 last year, four days after nuns from two religious houses over which he presides took to the streets in demonstrations shortly after deadly rioting erupted in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.
A police search of the home of the living Buddha, who presides over several religious houses and runs an old people’s home, turned up an imitation pistol and 100 rounds of ammunition that police said could cause severe injury or even be fatal.
Local officials, unaware that his lawyers had a background in human rights, had told them when they arrived that the leaders had decided that the living Buddha must be jailed as an example to prevent other reincarnations from using their influence to stir up anti-Chinese unrest.
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