China sentenced four men to death for smuggling guns from Pakistan in what the government said was the country's biggest cross-border weapons trafficking case in five decades, state media and a court official said Friday.
The guns were smuggled to Muslim areas of China's west, but the court official said there was no link to Islamic separatists who the government claims are active in the region, the AP reports.
Fourteen people were convicted of smuggling 914 guns and 1,556 gun parts and accessories from Pakistan into Gansu and Qinghai provinces in 1995-2004, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
A woman who would only give her surname, Yu, at the Handong Intermediate People's Court in Qinghai province identified the men sentenced to death as Ma Zeying, Ma Qi, Li Zhi and Tan Zhenming.
"They are not related to any terrorist group," Yu said.
Four others were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and one received life in prison, Yu said. She said five were sentenced to between 14 and 15 years in prison.
Xinhua said the weapons were smuggled to Gansu's capital of Lanzhou and to the Hualong Hui Minority Autonomous County in Qinghai.
An earlier Xinhua report said that the suspects hid the weapons in suitcase linings and fruit crates.
The Chinese government has claimed that Islamic separatists in the country's west are linked to al-Qaida and have received weapons and training from allies in Central Asia.
Chinese military experts are confident that there are only three countries of the world - Russia, the United States and China - that are capable of developing and building fifth generation fighter aircraft