LHASA, April 8 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese court on Wednesday sentenced two people to death after finding them guilty of starting fatal fires in Lhasa riot in March last year, a court spokesman said.
Two others were given death sentences each with a two-year reprieve, and another would face life imprisonment, also on arson charges, said the spokesman with the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court.
The five were tried in three separate arson cases, in which altogether seven civilians were killed and five shops torched in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, according to the court verdicts.
Another arson case is still under trial, in which five civilians were killed and a shop burnt down.
Of those convicted, Losang Gyaltse got death penalty for setting fire to two garment shops in downtown Lhasa on March 14 that killed a shop owner Zuo Rencun, the court heard.
In another case, Loyar, Gangtsu, and Dawa Sangpo torched a motorcycle dealership in the Deqen Township in Lhasa's Dagze County on March 15 last year. Five people, including the shop owner Liang Zhiwei, Liang's wife, son and two employees, were left dead.
Loyar received a death penalty, Gangtsu was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, and Dawa Sangpo got life imprisonment, according to the court verdicts.
In the third case, Tenzin Phuntsog was sentenced to death but also with a two-year reprieve. He was convicted of setting fire to a garment shop which spread to a neighboring garment shop in downtown Lhasa on March 14 last year. A shop owner Liu Guobing and his wife were injured and Liu's daughter was burnt to death, the court heard.
"His crime deserves the death penalty, but judges reached the verdict while taking 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 sentences were made at the first instance trial Wednesday afternoon, he said.
"The three arson cases are among the crimes that led to the worst consequences in the March 14 riot," he said. "Their crimes incurred great losses to people's lives and property and severely undermine the social order, security and stability."
He cited the case of the youngest victim, Liang Zhiwei's son, who was only eight months old.
He said the judges have followed the criminal policy of "tempering justice with mercy" and "exercising strict and cautious control over the use of death penalty" in handling the cases.
"The two defendants given death penalties had committed extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger. For those defendants who deserve lesser punishments under statutory or discretionary circumstances, they were given lighter punishments according to the law," he said.
The spokesman also said the court had given open trials strictly abiding by the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China.
"The court also provided Tibetan interpreters for the defendants," he said.
"Their lawyers fully voiced their defenses. The litigious rights of the defendants were fully safeguarded and their customs and dignity were respected," he added.