BEIJING, Feb. 14 (AP) - A Muslim activist was sentenced to death in China's restive northwest for setting up a group that wants to establish Islamic rule, a court official said Wednesday.

Arkhan Abulla was sentenced by the People's Intermediate Court in Korla, a city in the Xinjiang region, said a court official, who would not say when sentencing took place.

China has struggled for years to crush simmering separatist sentiment in its far northwest, where Uighurs - Turkic Muslims who are the region's largest ethnic group - have long resisted Chinese rule.

Since the mid-1990s, militant Uighurs have waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations against Chinese and suspected collaborators. Human rights groups say two activists were executed in January on charges of trying to overthrow Chinese rule.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has been fed by an influx of Chinese settlers and a belief that migrants have benefited disproportionately from the region's economic development.

On Monday, the imprisoned son of a prominent jailed Muslim businesswoman was released six months early from a labor camp, his sister, Rushangguli, said Wednesday by telephone from Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi. She uses only one name.

Ablikim Abdiryi was detained with his mother, Rebiya Kadeer, in August 1999 and later sentenced without trial to two years in a labor camp for allegedly assisting separatists. His mother is serving an eight-year jail term for mailing newspapers to her husband overseas.

Her husband, Sidik Rouzi, is a former political prisoner and outspoken critic of the Chinese government who lives in the United States.

The Muslim sentenced to death, Arkhan Abulla, was accused of setting up an underground Islamic Party of East Turkestan that stockpiled weapons and printed anti-government propaganda, the court official said.

The Uighurs had their own Republic of East Turkestan during a short period of independence from 1944 until 1949, when China's communists seized power.

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