Wed, Aug 29, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Yahoo asks court to dismiss suit over dissidents' arrests

AFP , WASHINGTON

The Internet giant Yahoo has asked a US court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the company of "aiding and abetting" torture by giving Chinese authorities information about dissidents that led to their imprisonment.

Yahoo on Monday filed the motion for dismissal, calling the case "political" and insisting that its Chinese subsidiary was compelled by local law to hand over information to authorities, including user registration information and e-mail content.

SOVEREIGN RIGHTS

"Free speech rights as we understand them in the United States are not the law in China," Yahoo said. "Every sovereign nation has a right to regulate speech within its borders."

The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in San Francisco in April e-mailby Yu Ling (余陵), the wife of Wang Xiaoning (王小寧), a Yahoo user jailed in China for promoting democracy online.

The suit accuses Yahoo of helping Chinese officials track down her husband and of linking her husband and others to e-mail and online comments.

Yahoo said that the "plaintiffs' criminal judgments do not show that defendants divulged plaintiffs' identities, caused them to be investigated, or provided proof essential to their convictions."

The dissidents "assumed the risk of harm when they chose to use Yahoo China e-mail and group list services to engage in activity they knew violated Chinese law."

Yahoo was referred to 10 times in the 2003 Chinese court verdict that declared Wang guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" and sentenced him to a decade in prison.

The suit also involves Shi Tao (師濤), who was convicted in 2005 of divulging state secrets after he posted a Chinese government order forbidding media organizations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising on the Internet.

POLITICS, NOT LAW

"This is a political and diplomatic issue, not a legal one," Yahoo spokeswoman Kelley Benander said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"The real issue here is the plaintiffs' outrage at the behavior and laws of the Chinese government. The US court system is not the forum for addressing these political concerns," she said.

The suit filed under the auspices of the US Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act names Chinese Internet search engine Alibaba as a defendant along with Yahoo's operations in China and Hong Kong.

It asks for compensatory damages and calls on the court to order Yahoo to stop cooperating with requests by China to identify Internet users and to pressure the government there to release Wang and others imprisoned as the result of such shared information.

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