Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 6 News List

China convicts US woman held on espionage charges

AFP, BEIJING

A Chinese court has sentenced an American woman to three and a half years in prison and deportation on espionage charges, a US-based rights group said yesterday, although details about her fate remain unclear.

Sandy Phan-Gillis was detained in March 2015 at the Macau border after visiting mainland China with a trade delegation from Houston, Texas.

She was accused of espionage and stealing state secrets for allegedly passing intelligence to a third party, according to previous reports from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) that cited unnamed government sources.

Nanning Intermediate People’s Court in Guangxi Province issued the sentence on Tuesday, but the American’s next steps will not become clear until a written judgement is released at an unknown future date, Dui Hua Foundation director John Kamm said.

Phan-Gillis was being held in a detention center, not a prison, and did not plan to appeal, he said.

“Adjusted for time spent in residential surveillance in a designated location, she has already served more than half her sentence, and is accordingly eligible for parole as well as medical parole, commutation and immediate deportation,” Kamm said.

“I am hopeful she will be reunited with her family soon,” he added.

A US embassy spokeswoman in Beijing yesterday said her trial was closed to the public and a request to have a consular officer attend had been refused.

A US consular representative had been allowed to attend the public announcement of the verdict.

The spokeswoman said the US government “remained concerned” about the case and was in contact with the “highest levels” of the Chinese government about it.

Last year, WGAD denounced China’s handling of the case, saying it had not observed “international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, and to liberty and security.”

Violations by Chinese authorities were of “such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Ms Phan-Gillis an arbitrary character,” it said in its report, released in July last year.

Phan-Gillis was held for six months at a secret location and later at a detention center in Guangxi, where she was initially put in solitary confinement, WGAD said.

Her husband, Jeff Gillis, has campaigned for her freedom, including a Web site savesandy.org.

Phan-Gillis has family origins in China, but was born in Vietnam, leaving the country in the late 1970s, fleeing Vietnamese communist rule, the Web site said.

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