Trial of top Chinese dissident ends; verdict Friday (Lead)December 23rd, 2009 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS
Beijing, Dec 23 (DPA) The trial against prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lasted less than three hours Wednesday in Beijing and a verdict was expected this week, a dissident lawyer said.
Liu faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of a charge of “inciting subversion of state power” at a trial that human rights groups are calling politically motivated and aimed at placing a leading critic of the Chinese government behind bars and silencing him.
“He stressed that he had not violated the law,” said Mo Shaoping, whose firm represents Liu.
Liu’s two attorneys entered a plea of not guilty, said Mo, adding that a verdict was to be handed down Friday.
Liu, 54, who has been imprisoned twice before for a total of five years, was detained in December 2008, shortly before the release of Charter ‘08 for democratic reform in China, which he co-organised.
In the charter, 303 leading dissidents, activists and writers set out their ideals for transforming China into a liberal democracy and lamented a lack of “freedom, equality and human rights” under the ruling Communist Party.
Since its release, more than 10,000 people have signed it online.
One of the signatories was Mo, who, thereby, was barred from representing Liu at his trial.
Liu’s trial took place under unusually tight security. A contingent of uniformed and plain-clothes police and security personnel blocked the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court, and several of Liu’s supporters who expressed their sympathies outside the court building were arrested, witnesses said.
The international community has called for Liu’s release, but China has rejected the appeals as interference in its internal affairs.
On Wednesday, diplomats from the US, Germany, France and Canada tried unsuccessfully to attend the proceedings. The court told them that all observer passes had already been distributed.
Dissident Ai Weiwei, who is also one of China’s most famous living artists, appeared outside the courthouse to carry out a silent protest against Liu Xiaobo’s prosecution.
Government critic and lawyer Teng Biao also demonstrated his support for Liu. On the microblogging site Twitter, he called Liu’s trial a violation of the law, free expression and human rights.
Ahead of the trial, other human rights activists and dissidents were warned not to express their sympathy with Liu Xiaobo or participate in activities related to his trial.
“We call on the government of China to release him (Liu Xiaobo) immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views in favour of universally recognized fundamental freedoms, including the right to petition one’s government,” Grey May, the first secretary at the US embassy, told reporters after failing in his efforts to attend the trial.
“We urge that any judicial proceedings be conducted in a fair and transparent manner in accordance to the rights of all Chinese citizens.”
Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, called the charges against her husband “fabricated” and said he was only exercising his right to free speech, which is protected in the Chinese constitution.
Liu Xia was barred from watching the trial because the prosecution has called her as a witness. She and several of her friends were prevented by security officers from leaving home to travel to the court building.
Among those friends was retired professor Ding Zilin, leader of a network of relatives of victims of the bloody 1989 government crackdown on democracy protesters. The crackdown centred around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Zilin had called on all those who signed Charter ‘08 to assemble peacefully outside the courthouse to proclaim their support for the manifesto.
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