Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have handed a 39-month jail term to the nephew of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who is currently studying in New York, for "intentional injury," his father and lawyer said.
The sentence came after a trial that lasted four-and-a-half hours, and the family was informed only by telephone after the sentence was passed, Chen Guangfu, father of the defendant, Chen Kegui, said on Friday.
"I got a call from the lawyer appointed by the court this morning, but I haven't had any formal notification," Chen Guangfu said. "As Kegui's father, I should have had the right to attend the trial."
"At the very least, they should have notified me beforehand [that it would take place.] I have had nothing in writing," he added.
He said the family had received the news while getting ready to visit his own father's grave on the 10th anniversary of his death.
"We suddenly got this news," said Chen Guangfu, whose counter lawsuit aimed at making public the details of an attack on the family home by local officials was refused by a court in Yinan county last month.
Chen Guangfu says officials invaded his home and attacked his family following Chen Guangcheng's daring escape from more than 18 months of house arrest in Yinan county's Dongshigu village.
Chen Kegui has been detained since the allegedly brutal attack by local officials on his family home on April 27, although charges against him have been downgraded from "intentional homicide" to "intentional injury" in the wake of his uncle's highly publicized escape.
The raid on the family came when local officials—who had hired hundreds of local people to keep watch on Chen Guangcheng and his family—discovered the blind activist was nowhere to be seen, following his nighttime, solo escape in April from more than 18 months of house arrest.
Chen Kegui's case has been shrouded in secrecy since Chen Guangcheng's arrival in the U.S. in May, with many lawyers reporting official harassment after they tried to advise or represent him.
Ding Xikui, the family-appointed lawyer for Chen Kegui who has been unable to see his client or review the case materials, accused the authorities of covering up the trial.
"They shouldn't try to hide things from the family," Ding said. "I don't know if it's deliberate, but if they don't inform the family, then it's a cover-up."
"At the very least they should inform the lawyer three days before the date of the trial."
Repeated calls to the officially-appointed lawyer went unanswered during office hours on Friday.
Chen Guangcheng, now a visiting law student in New York, says that his nephew is being held "hostage" by the authorities to ensure his good behavior while overseas.
In an interview in August, Chen Guangfu said police and officials "illegally burst into my house on the night of April 26 and ruthlessly beat up me, my son Kegui, and Kegui’s wife, who was wounded by the attackers."
He said the attackers were shouting to each other to beat his son to death, so his son picked up a kitchen knife in self-defense, injuring Zhang Jian, the head of Shuanghou township, and two other attackers.
Chen Guangcheng's daring escape from his closely guarded home and subsequent flight to the U.S. Embassy, where he sought refuge for nearly a week, came just ahead of annual strategic dialogues between U.S. and Chinese officials, prompting a diplomatic crisis and frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations.
The diplomatic crisis was defused after Chen Guangcheng was allowed to fly to New York, where he is now a special student at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of New York University.
He has accused Beijing of failing to honor its pledge to investigate abuses that he and his family were subjected to in China.
The blind activist has said that he and his family experienced illegal detention and brutal beatings while under house arrest and that Beijing had promised him it would sack officials responsible for the mistreatment.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.