Tue, Nov 28, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Authorities manipulating activist's retrial: attorney

AP , BEIJING

A blind Chinese activist who was sentenced to more than four years in prison after documenting claims of forced abortions went back on trial yesterday, while his lawyers questioned the authorities' handling of the judicial process.

Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) was convicted in August of damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic" after a trial in Shandong Province.

Earlier this month, an intermediate court where Chen filed an appeal overturned the sentence, citing inadequate evidence, and sent it back to the lower court in Yinan County.

Human rights activists said that Chen's case was an example of official retaliation and unjust imprisonment of dissidents based on phony charges. Local authorities, however, appeared to be manipulating the judicial process against Chen.

"At this time, I'm not sure whether to be optimistic yet," said Li Fangping (李方平), one of two lawyers who were representing Chen. He said local authorities had closed off traffic to the area and only Chen's wife, mother and brother were permitted to attend the closed proceedings.

Li said he himself had to argue with authorities to be allowed to enter the court.

State media has reported that Chen Guangcheng instigated an attack on government offices in Yinan County because he was upset with workers sent to carry out poverty-relief programs.

Another of Chen's attorneys, Li Jinsong (李勁松), said about 30 policemen on Sunday prevented him and two other lawyers from entering the village of Dongshigu, where the reported disturbance occurred.

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