Friday, December 19, 2008

China sentences rights activist to two years in prison

RINF.COM, Dec 18, 2008

Beijing - A Beijing court sentenced a rights activist to two years in prison on Thursday after convicting her of ‘obstructing public business,’ her husband said.

Dong Jiqin said he was not allowed into the courtroom to present his defence of his wife, Ni Yulan, who planned to appeal against the sentence.

’They didn’t let me in,’ Dong told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

He said Xicheng district court officials only allowed the couple’s adult daughter into the courtroom but apparently did not consider any of the evidence prepared in Ni’s defence.

’They didn’t let our daughter defend her [Ni] or accept her evidence,’ Dong said.

If she loses her appeal, Ni will have to serve the remaining 16 months of her two-year sentence after spending eight months in detention before the trial, he said.

Ni, 48, was arrested on April 15 when she tried to stop some two dozen people from knocking down a wall enclosing part of the yard outside their home, which they had refused to vacate for developers despite years of pressure and threats.

The police claimed that Ni caused serious injury to a worker while she was trying to stop them from damaging her property.

’This was an excuse to arrest her,’ Dong, 56, said in an earlier interview. ‘They didn’t have any evidence.’

The police later accused Ni of kicking an officer while in custody, he said.

The authorities did not allow Dong to visit Ni during her detention, but a lawyer who made several visits reported that she was in poor health and complained of mistreatment during police interviews.

Ni was left disabled following alleged abuses during an earlier spell of police detention.

Dong said their daughter was not allowed to speak to Ni on Thursday but reported that she appeared in poor health.

’My daughter saw her and said she was extremely thin,’ he said.

Ni’s career as a lawyer was first interrupted in 2002 when police illegally detained her for 75 days for filming a forced relocation.

During that detention, Dong said, Ni was beaten and not given medical treatment.

She was left with permanent back and leg injuries and now walks with the aid of crutches, he said.

Ni then lost her right to practise law following a criminal conviction in late 2002 on the same charge of ‘obstructing public business.’

Ni told her lawyer that the police had confiscated her crutches and made her crawl to use the bathroom during her latest detention, Dong said earlier.

Xicheng district authorities razed the family home last month as part of a local government redevelopment plan, following several years of wrangling over legal issues and compensation.

Hundreds of thousands of people have moved over the past 20 years to allow the demolition of most of Beijing’s traditional one-storey housing, which has made way for vast new commercial and residential complexes.

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