The trial of a prominent Chinese anti-graft activist on public order charges was marred by “clear bias” as the main judge refused to allow the defense to speak or cross-examine witnesses, the dissident's lawyer said Tuesday.
Ding Jiaxi, 46, a well-known Beijing-based lawyer, is the latest high-profile campaigner from the New Citizens' Movement, a loose coalition of transparency activists, to be tried for "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" after they called in public on China's leaders to declare their assets and those of their families.
He stood trial Tuesday at the Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing alongside Li Wei, a 42-year-old unemployed man who took part in the protests.
During the proceedings, Ding’s lawyer was forbidden from speaking out in his defense and cross-examination was banned by the judges, the lawyer Sui Muqing told RFA.
"The judge was clearly biased [in favor of the prosecution] to an unacceptable degree," Sui said in an interview on Tuesday. "Everything I asked for was overruled by the judge."
"The judges basically wouldn't let me say anything; as soon as they saw I was about to speak, they cut me off," Sui said.
He added: "I was given two warnings because I was unhappy with the judge's conduct."
Sui said a request that the witnesses for the prosecution appear in court for cross-examination was rejected.
Ding subsequently refused to answer any questions put by prosecution lawyers in protest at his treatment by the court, he said.
"I was also interrogated by police during the lunchtime recess, and some scuffles broke out because I refused to show my ID," said Sui, who said the police appeared annoyed that he had given an interview to a Reuters journalist.
"They hit me a couple of times and some buttons were ripped off my clothing."
Li's lawyer, Cao Weiping, told Reuters he was not allowed to accept interviews.
Supporters gathered outside
Security at the courtroom was tight, with more than 100 of Ding’s and Li’s supporters gathered outside the building under the watchful gaze of dozens of plainclothes state security police, and as armed police threw a security cordon around the area and lined nearby streets, eyewitnesses said.
Foreign diplomats who tried to sit in on the trial in the public gallery were prevented from entering the building by police, according to Internet postings that were unverified by RFA.
Ding was detained on April 17, 2013 and initially tried at around the same time as fellow New Citizens’ Movement activists, but his trial was postponed after his lawyer resigned on Jan. 27 amid procedural disputes.
Ding is currently being held in Beijing's No. 3 Detention Center, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said.
In January, New Citizens’ Movement leader Xu Zhiyong, one of China’s most prominent dissidents, was sentenced to four years in prison on public order charges.
A court is expected to rule on Xu's appeal against his sentence on Friday.
CHRD said it fully expected the court to uphold the original verdict and jail sentence handed down to Xu on Jan. 26 by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court.
"He was seized as a part of the crackdown on peaceful assembly, association and expression," CHRD said in an emailed statement on Monday.
Meanwhile, the trial of Shaanxi-based fellow activist Zhao Changqing is set to reconvene on Thursday after a similar delay due to protests and resignations by his legal team.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.