Ilham Tohti. Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — An outspoken Chinese minority scholar has been indicted on separatism charges amid continuing anti-government violence in the country’s far west.

The prosecutor’s office in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi made the announcement about economics professor Ilham Tohti in a brief online statement on Wednesday.

Tohti was detained in mid-January and later accused of separatism. Through his lawyer, he has firmly rejected accusations of fomenting separatism, which can carry penalties of several years in prison.

Tohti has been a moderate but vocal advocate for equal rights for the Turkic Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang.

On Monday, the government said rampaging militants armed with knives and axes killed and injured dozens of people. Official reports say police killed dozens of militants in response. More details haven’t been given.