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Dharamsala: The US and international human rights organisations have strongly criticised the sentencing of three Tibetan monks to varying prison terms ranging from 10-13 years in jail for their alleged role in the death of Phuntsog, a 21 year old monk from Kirti monastery, who burnt himself to death in March this year to protest the Chinese government's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in Tibet in 2008.

A Chinese court in Sichuan province sentenced Tsundue (Ch:Drongdru), uncle and teacher of Phuntsog to 11 years imprisonment and two other monks of Kirti monastery for 10-13 years imprisonment.

The US State Department has expressed concern over the sentences and urged Beijing to address grievances in the region.

"We urge the Chinese government to ensure transparency and to uphold the the procedural protections and rights to which Chinese citizens are entitled under China's constitution and laws under international standards," the state Department said in a statement.

"To resolve underlying grievances of China's Tibetan population, we urge Chinese leaders to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension and to protect Tibetans' unique linguistic,cultural and religious identity,"it said. The international human rights groups criticised the sentence as purely political,false and unjust, and as a means to deflect attention from the self immolation.

Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said, "It comes against a background of unprecedented persecution against the monastery of Kirti, from where the government has already taken into arbitrary dentention dozens of monks. The monastery has remained extremely tense since security forces shot dead several protesters in March 2008."

"Sentencing a monk who appears to have only attempted to protect Phuntsog after his solitary act only compounds the agony for Kirti monks." said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet.

"By doing so the Chinese government aims to deflect attention from the real reasons for the self-immolation, which was an expression of anguish and sacrifice due to intense repression,including new measures to suppress religious practice in Tibetan areas."

The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said "the charges and accusation of murder are false and unjust.The self-immolation of monk Phuntsog, drew much international attention to the grave human rights situation in Tibet. Such Unfortunate incident was a result of desperation and an act to protest repressive Chinese policies in Tibet."

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