Ilham Tohti. Pic: AP.

Ilham Tohti. Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — A court has upheld the separatism conviction and life sentence for a noted scholar from China’s Muslim Uighur minority who frequently criticized the government while advocating ethnic pride and greater economic opportunity.

Ilham Tohti was accused of fomenting unrest in the far western region of Xinjiang during a closed-door trial in September in the regional capital of Urumqi. His supporters have portrayed him as a moderate intent on mediating conflicts between Xinjiang’s native Uighurs and China’s ethnic Han majority.

His lawyer, Li Pangping, said Ilham Tohti’s appeal against his conviction was rejected Friday by the Xinjiang High Court.

Li says the verdict upholding the sentence was delivered at a hearing in an Urumqi jail, which he says is a violation of normal judicial procedure.