China jails Ai Weiwei’s lawyer amid national crackdown

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Originally published by DPA International on September 22, 2016

A Beijing court on Thursday jailed a prominent lawyer for 12 years on fraud charges, the latest verdict in China’s ongoing crackdown on activists and rights lawyers.

Xia Lin pled not guilty and his supporters said the case was another example of retaliation against a human rights advocate who had defended the rule of law and challenged the government.

Before his detention two years ago, Xia represented high-profile clients including the outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was himself jailed for 81 days without official charges in 2011 and now lives in Germany.

Xia’s lawyer, Wang Zhenyu, confirmed his client had been sentenced to 12 years in prison, deprived of political rights for three years and ordered to pay a fine of 120,000 yuan (18,000 dollars) and to give total compensation of 4.81 million yuan to fraud victims.

“Xia Lin is not guilty. He has decided to appeal the court decision and we will file the appeal in the next few days,” Wang told dpa.

“The focus of police interrogations demonstrate that the case was really about his work defending sensitive clients, such as Ai Weiwei, Pu Zhiqiang, and Guo Yushan,” said Frances Eve, researcher at the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) , citing a court statement from Xia’s lawyers that lawyer Ding Xikui posted online.

“Authorities violated his basic due process rights and denied him a fair trial. We continue to call for his unconditional release,” Eve told dpa.

Of the more than 300 human rights lawyers and activists who have been detained or summoned by police since last year, over a dozen are believed to still be in jail.

Last month, four were convicted on subversion charges and sentenced to as much as seven and a half years in prison.

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