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Tensions running high in Tibet over trial of Lama Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche

by Nirmala Carvalho, Asia News, April 24, 2009

He is the first Buddhist leader to be tried on charges stemming from the March 2008 protests. Accusations against him are false, extorted under torture, says human rights groups.

Dharamsala, India -- The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has condemned the trial of Tulku Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, which began last Tuesday. Emotions are particularly high in Tibet because he is the first Buddhist leader to be put on trial for his role in the March 2008 protests. As a result, security measures in the region are tight.

Phurbu, a lama held in high regard by Tibetans, has been in prison since 18 May 2008. he was arrested on weapons charges after police said it found a gun and bullets during a search at his home in Kardze (Ganzi). He could get as much 15 years in prison.

His attorney, Li Fangping, said that a confession was extorted from him after four days of non-stop interrogation and threats to arrest his wife and son.

Phurbu’s arrest came a day after more than 80 nuns from the Pangri Nunnery demonstrated peacefully against Chinese repression. Police beat up the religious women, arresting 55 of them.

The TCHRD was particularly scathing of China’s strategy of targeting prominent Buddhist leaders and accusing them of instigating violence in order to justify the ruthless crackdown carried out by its own police since March 2008.

It pointed out that this part of a pattern, that false charges were also laid against other religious figures like Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok of the Sertha Buddhist Institute; Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, founder of the Kham Nalanda Monastery; and Bangi Rinpoche, founder of the Gyatso orphanage in Lhasa; all of whom were arrested and then tried.

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