Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Chinese lawyer on trial for subversion

ROUGH JUSTICE Officials said the lawyer refused any legal representation, a claim his own defense attorney cast doubt on amid fears he had no chance of a fair trial

AFP , BEIJING

A Chinese lawyer well-known for taking on politically sensitive cases has been put on trial in Beijing for subversion but denied proper legal representation, his attorney said yesterday.

Gao Zhisheng's (高智晟) one-day trial for alleged "incitement to subvert the government" was held on Tuesday and a verdict is pending, lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) told reporters.

Gao faces between five and 15 years in jail, Mo said, although his supporters, some US politicians and international rights groups maintain authorities trumped up the charges to silence him.

They argue the case is part of a campaign by China's rulers to quash dissent that has seen other many other activists, lawyers and journalists jailed in similar one-day trials fraught with irregularities.

Mo said he was not informed about Gao's trial beforehand, and that he was illegally refused the right to defend or even meet with his client.

Gao was represented by Court appointed lawyers after officials said he had refused any legal representation, but Mo cast doubt on that claim.

"Not allowing lawyers to meet with Gao Zhisheng is a violation of legal rules and illegally deprives him of his legal rights," Mo said.

Officials at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, where the trial was held, refused to comment yesterday.

His fate had been in question since he was detained in August for what the government called "suspected involvement in criminal activities," without making specific allegations.

Among the activities his fellow activists have said he was being punished for was an open letter he wrote to President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) calling for an end to persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual sect.

Gao was ordered to close his law firm last month and was put under 24-hour surveillance after he wrote the letter.

He was also involved in helping people fight land rights disputes and government corruption, as well as aiding other lawyers persecuted by authorities.

The US House of Representatives adopted a resolution in April condemning China's treatment of him.

Human Rights Watch this week criticized China's rulers for trying to restrain lawyers from helping marginalized people in society, especially those who have suffered injustices in an ever-rising number of environment, labor and land disputes.

It said new legal guidelines issued in March aimed to throttle the ability of lawyers to handle politically sensitive cases involving large numbers of plaintiffs. Gao had regularly taken up such cases.

One of China's leading rights activists, Hu Jia (胡佳), who is himself under constant surveillance, told reporters that authorities had ensured Gao had no chance of getting off the subversion charges.

"No matter if you are talking about the police, the prosecutors or the court, [they all] violated the law every step of the way in handling the case," Hu said.

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