Prominent Human Rights Lawyer on Trial in Beijing

Posted December 29th, 2011 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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A Chinese human rights lawyer and activist known for her fight against government land grabs has gone on trial in Beijing.

The trial of Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin began at a west Beijing courthouse Thursday amid heavy security.

A court spokesman told reporters the trial was open to the public. But foreign journalists, diplomats and Ni supporters have been banned from the proceedings.

“The open and public trial for fraud of the accused, Ni Yulan, has begun at 9:30 am, on December 29th 2011, at the Xicheng District courthouse.”

Yi faces charges of fraud and other offenses after providing legal assistance to residents facing forced evictions from their homes without adequate compensation.

She and her husband were detained in April as part of a wider crackdown on political dissent following anonymous online calls for protests in China after a series of uprisings in several Arab countries.

Ni was also jailed in 2002 and 2008 for “obstructing official business” and “harming public property” after fighting against the government acquisition of her home in Beijing.

She says she was tortured while in prison and is now wheelchair-bound.

Ni has lived in a tent after being evicted from her home and is barred from practicing law.

One of her supporters, Zhu Quiqin, says this is the latest in a series of detentions of human rights lawyers.

“This is an example of China going after and stamping out human rights lawyers. When they do that, they take away their licenses and disbar them.”

Two other human rights activists were handed lengthy prison sentences earlier this month. In addition, two weeks ago another human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was sent back to prison for three years after a court ruled he had violated terms of his probation.

Ni's trial comes a day after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged government officials to protect land rights of farmers and give them a better compensation when their land is taken over for development. He spoke after authorities in southern Guangdong province gave in to villagers protesting what they called illegal land seizures.

In recent months, several local communities have staged protests against government plans to turn their farms into pollution-spewing factories and leaving them with inadequate sources of income.