A top rights attorney hired to represent jailed Chinese rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has dismissed some of the charges against him as unrelated to his client's actions.
Pu is now being charged with "incitement to subvert state power," "incitement to separatism," "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and "illegally obtaining citizens' information."
His newly appointed lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told RFA on Monday that the separatism charges, which are linked to Pu's criticism of the government's treatment of ethnic minority Uyghurs in the wake of a deadly March 1 knife attack in Kunming railway station, don't appear to stand up.
"I don't think the charges are well-founded, because the police are using a few things he wrote after the Kunming incident about government policies towards Uyghurs," he said.
"I don't think this amounts to separatism, which is actually very rare," Mo said. "It doesn't fit with the description Pu Zhiqiang has given to his lawyers."
Pu was initially detained in early May after around 20 human rights lawyers, academics, and family members of victims attended a seminar in Beijing, where they called for a public inquiry into the June 4, 1989, crackdown on unarmed civilians at Tiananmen Square by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Former 1989 Tiananmen activist Pu was later formally arrested, but on the lesser, public order charges. He has defended several high-profile human rights cases in recent years.
His arrest came as dozens of activists and family members of victims of the 1989 crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement were also detained ahead of the sensitive 25th anniversary of the bloodshed.
More serious charge
Pu's hiring of Mo comes after prosecutors added the more serious charge of "incitement to subvert state power" to previous public order charges earlier this month.
But Mo said he still needed to gain access both to Pu and the case files.
"I can't give a full opinion yet; I haven't been able to view the case files in detail, because I have to wait until they've been moved from the police to the procurator's office," he said.
"Also, I haven't yet been able to meet with Pu Zhiqiang."
Mo said Pu had instructed him as a member of the defense team after a number of defense lawyers withdrew from the case or were themselves held under criminal detention.
Mo said he had been hired by Pu to assist existing defense attorney Gao Guangqing.
"He lives in Qinhuangdao [300 kilometers (190 miles) from Beijing], so it's not that easy for him to get to Beijing, but he also doesn't have much experience with these types of cases," Mo said.
"That's why Pu wanted to instruct me."
Mo has defended some of China's most prominent dissidents, including jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was handed an 11-year jail term in 2009 for "incitement to subvert state power," and Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi, founder of the Tianwang rights website.
Currently, he is also defending veteran journalist Gao Yu, who stood trial on Friday for "leaking state secrets overseas." A verdict has yet to be announced in that case.
According to China's 1997 Criminal Code, incitement refers to using language, text, images and other such means to encourage subversion of the political power of the state or the splitting of the country, or the undermining of national unity.
In cases where defendants are judged to be a "ringleader," or if their crimes are considered particularly serious, the minimum jail term for both charges is five years.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.