(Reuters) - Tibet authorities have arrested 24 suspects for "grave crimes" after troops cracked down on anti-Chinese riots that swept the mountain region, with fallout from the turmoil clouding diplomacy and Olympic preparations.
The prosecutor's office in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, said the suspects face charges of "endangering national security as well as beating, smashing, looting, arson and other grave crimes" in riots on Friday, the Tibet Daily reported on Thursday.
They were the first arrests announced since unrest erupted across Tibetan areas, but many more are expected to follow. Some outside groups say hundreds of Tibetans may have already been detained, and the Chinese News Service reported Lhasa has broadcast wanted pictures of more suspects.
"The facts of the crimes are clear and the evidence is solid, and they should be severely punished," a Lhasa deputy chief prosecutor, Xie Yanjun, said.
But he echoed the Chinese government's claim that the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, was the real culprit. "This law-breaking was organized, premeditated and carefully planned by the Dalai clique," Xie said.
China's unyielding response to the unrest has brought demands for a boycott of the Games opening ceremony from pro-Tibetan independence groups and some politicians. The Olympic torch relay across 19 countries that starts next week, and which will also pass through Tibet, is also likely to be dogged by protests.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government was considering whether to send a delegation to the ceremony to start the August 8-24 Games.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama urged the United States to speak out for human rights in Tibet following the crackdown. The Bush administration and the European Union have urged China to show restraint.