By Meg Jalsevac
BEIJING, December 4, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The three year, four month sentence for Chen Guangcheng, a blind, human rights activist in China has been upheld by the Yinan People’s Court for “willfully damaging property” and “organizing a mob to disturb traffic”. The charges stem from a protest against human rights violations in Chen’s home town. Chen’s lawyers assert that the charges are trumped up fabrications to penalize him for his vocal denouncement of local officials physically forcing sterilizations and abortions to uphold China’s ‘one-child’ policy in the eastern Shandong province.
The sentence was upheld at a retrial ordered by the Linyi City Intermediate Court after it deemed Chen’s first trial in August of this year invalid “because the process of the first trial was unfair, and facts and evidence … were not tenable and did not hold water.” At Chen’s initial trial, he was denied proper legal counsel because all three of his lawyers had been arrested just the day before on charges of “stealing a wallet.”
As previously reported by LifeSiteNews.com, Chen was first placed under house arrest in August 2005 after filing a class action lawsuit to protest the more than 120,000 claims by local inhabitants of Shadong of forced abortions and sterilizations at the order of local officials. Since that time, Chen and his family and friends have suffered continually at the hands of the communist regime undergoing illegal arrests, beatings, house arrests and intense questioning.
When the abuses were brought to national and international attention, senior family planning officials in Beijing immediately condemned the activities of the local officials saying that their actions were “definitely illegal” and claimed that an investigation into possible abuses would be carried out.
Teng Biao, one of Chen’s present lawyers, immediately condemned the upheld verdict saying, “We hereby express our strongest condemnation about this verdict. We will go after the criminal activities such as the torture and kidnapping of witnesses, the detention and beating of lawyers and illegal house arrest.”
Chen’s defense team faced unique challenges before and during the trial including the recent disappearance of three key witnesses, severe beatings of the lawyers themselves as they attempted to gather evidence and what they claimed was illegal interference by local officials during the trial.
Li Jingsong, one of the attorneys representing Chen, says that he saw one of the defense’s key witnesses being taken away by eight men in civilian clothes just days before the trial. Li believes that the men were either plain clothes police men or men with ties to the police. Li also claims that he was prevented from collecting evidence for the trial and was attacked by a mob of 30 shortly before the trial.
Chen wife and brother were allowed to testify for him and Chen was allowed 30 minutes to defend himself.
Chen has not received any formal legal training. When he was college-age, Chinese law prohibited blind individuals from earning a college degree. He taught himself the information and skills that he has employed to bring this human rights violation to the forefront of global attention.
Chinese treatment of Chen and his family and friends has garnered global condemnation from human rights groups and nations alike.
Chen’s legal team said that they would appeal the verdict once again to the Linyi City Intermediate Court.
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