Authorities in the Chinese capital have handed a lengthy jail term to the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo for "fraud," his lawyer said on Monday.
Liu Hui, 43, was sentenced to 11 year's imprisonment, two years' deprivation of political rights, and a 10,000 yuan (U.S.$1,630) fine in connection with a property dispute by the Huairou District People's Court, in a northern suburb of Beijing, on Sunday.
"Of course, he's very disappointed with this sentence," Liu Hui's lawyer Mo Shaoping said in an interview.
Liu Hui is the brother of Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia, who in April appeared in public for the first time following years of house arrest to attend her brother's trial.
"Liu Xia said very clearly that this sentence handed to her brother Liu Hui is a form of political oppression," Mo added.
"From a legal point of view, this is an incorrect and unjust sentence handed down by the Huairou court," he said, citing problems both with the evidence brought against Liu Hui and the legal processes followed by the court.
"The authorities failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Liu Hui had made a promise to the alleged victim in respect of property projects," Mo said. "What's more, the testimony of the victim was inconsistent."
He said the case should never have been brought to the court in question.
"The Huairou court has no jurisdiction here, and the main offense isn't alleged to have taken place here," Mo said, adding that the police had tried to interfere with Liu Hui's choice of attorney.
U.S.-based rights activist Liu Nianchun said the entire trial had been a "puppet show."
"This sentence was handed down in the space of about 10 minutes, quick as you like. It was like a play on the stage," he said.
Li Xiaobing, director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma, said the case had clearly illustrated that the new administration under President Xi Jinping was unlikely to relax controls on freedom of expression any time soon.
"You may find some sentences are reduced, or some people allowed out on medical parole," Li said.
"This is really just so they have a bargaining chip for talks [with Western leaders]."
Relative of Liu Xiaobo
Liu Xiaobo, 57, a literary critic and former university professor, was detained in December 2008 after he helped draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of netizens.
A year later, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for “inciting subversion of state power” in the charter and in six other articles published online. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia.
Liu Xia, 54, who hasn't been charged with any crime, has been held prisoner in the couple's Beijing apartment since October 2010, when the Nobel committee first announced her husband's award.
Liu Hui was detained on Jan. 31 and accused of cheating a business associate out of more than 3 million yuan (U.S. $483,000).
Mo said at the time that he suspected Liu Hui's detention was likely linked to a brief visit to the Lius' Beijing apartment late last year by rights activists concerned about Liu Xia's well-being.
Chen Guangcheng's relatives get passports
Chinese dissidents, whether in jail or in exile overseas, frequently report official harassment and retaliatory action against their relatives.
Ahead of last weekend's summit between President Xi and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, authorities in Shandong approved the passport applications for relatives of another of China's most prominent dissidents, blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who since moving to the U.S. last year had spoken out against official harassment of family members in his hometown.
"They sent the passports to our home," Chen's brother Chen Guangfu said in an interview on Friday. "When I applied for them, I stated that the reason for the application was to go to the U.S. and visit my brother."
"We haven't set a date yet, because there are two more obstacles: one is the U.S. visa and the other is the cost of the trip," he said.
Chen Guangcheng's dramatic escape from house arrest last year provoked a diplomatic standoff after he sought refuge at the U.S. embassy.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service and Yang Jiadai for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.