Sixteen people in China, mainly health professionals, have been jailed for up to five years on charges of trafficking human organs, state media report.
The defendants, among whom were an anesthetist, a nurse and an assistant doctor, received jail terms ranging from two to five years for involvement in kidney trafficking and transplants, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
A local court said the group had used the internet to search for people selling kidneys nationwide and had then arranged for tests and matches between sellers and buyers. The court said that secret transplant surgeries had also been performed in the city of Feicheng, located in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong.
Patients had allegedly been asked to pay 400,000 yuan (around 58,000 US dollars) each, while people selling kidneys only received around 40,000 yuan.
A trial had been going for a year and a half before the Saturday verdict was reached.
The government in Beijing issued its first regulation on human organ transplants in 2007, banning organizations and individuals from any trading in organs; however, the practice is still widespread in the country.
Tradition in China, which suffers a drastic shortage of donated organs, dictates that corpses be buried intact and without mutilation.
Rights groups allege that most transplants in the vast East Asian country used the organs of executed convicts for decades, often without the consent of their families. Chinese authorities have dismissed the allegations.