China sentences activist's nephew to 3 years' jail
- Article by: GILLIAN WONG
- Associated Press
- November 30, 2012 - 5:08 AM
BEIJING - A Chinese court sentenced the nephew of legal activist Chen Guangcheng to more than three years in jail after a hurried, half-day trial Friday that his parents were barred from attending.
The punishment against Chen Kegui is seen as retaliation by local officials angered by Chen Guangcheng's daring escape from house arrest in April. The activist fled to the U.S. Embassy and set off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington. The activist, who is blind, now lives in New York.
The Yinan County People's Court convicted Chen Kegui, 32, of assaulting officials who stormed into his house looking for the activist, and sentenced him to three years and three months' imprisonment, said his father, Chen Guangfu. The court would not let him and his wife attend the trial, Chen Guangfu said, and dozens of police officers guarded them as they waited outside the courthouse.
Chen Guangcheng said he was infuriated by the punishment of his nephew, who he says acted in self-defense as would anyone whose house had been raided by armed men in the middle of the night.
"This is a case that tramples on the rule of law. It is a declaration of war against fairness and justice in the world. I absolutely cannot accept this and am very, very angry," said Chen Guangcheng in an interview from his home in New York where he has been studying English and law. "There is no doubt that this is a kind of retaliation against me."
The charge of "intentional injury" centers on a clash between Chen Kegui and local officials who burst into his home looking for Chen Guangcheng after his escape. Chen Kegui allegedly hacked at the officials with knives after he and his parents had been beaten.
Critics and the activist's supporters say that the case against Chen Kegui has been riddled with irregularities.
In the months since Chen Kegui disappeared into police custody, Yinan authorities did not officially notify his family about the prosecution nor did they issue an indictment or other official documentation to them. Officials did not let family members see Chen Kegui or hire their own lawyers to defend him, saying instead that Chen had accepted legal aid and court-appointed lawyers.
His father, Chen Guangfu, said he learned about the trial only hours before it opened, when the officially appointed lawyer called him Friday morning. "From the very beginning, they have not told us anything about the case," he said.
Chen Guangfu said he was saddened by the verdict, coming just weeks after a pivotal Communist Party meeting in Beijing in which a new group of leaders was unveiled. "I feel very disappointed. I had believed that once the new generation of leaders came to power there would be improvements in the rule of law, but now it looks like the situation is still the same."
Chen's flight from abusive house arrest in Shandong and into the protection of U.S. diplomats — which led to an agreement with Beijing to let him study in the U.S. accompanied by his wife and children — exposed the impunity of local officials and embarrassed the central government.
Associated Press reporter Isolda Morillo contributed to this report.
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