China to try prominent dissident Hu Jia next week


Beijing : China will try a well-known dissident next week on charges of subversion, despite appeals from the European Union and the United States for his release, his lawyer and a rights group said on Friday.

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Lawyer Li Jinsong said he and another lawyer would defend Hu Jia at his trial on March 18 by the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court.

The China Human Rights Defenders group said the lawyers were notified of the date Wednesday, just six days before the trial, giving them inadequate time to prepare Hu’s defence.

The processing of Hu’s case was “unusually speedy compared to normal practices in such high-profile cases” and the short notification appeared to be a “deliberate attempt to catch (the lawyers) off guard and unprepared for the trial,” the group said in a statement.

Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, and several of his leading supporters will not be allowed to attend the trial because they are deemed to be witnesses, it said.

Hu, 34, told his lawyers Tuesday that he was interrogated 47 times, for between six and 14 hours each time, in the first two months since his detention on Dec 27.

He had spent most of the previous two years under house arrest or other forms of detention.

Hu’s family was told last month that prosecutors had decided to charge him with “inciting subversion of state power”, which potentially carries a long prison sentence if he is convicted.

During his house arrest, he continued to post details of human rights abuses on the Internet and frequently spoke to foreign journalists about the cases.

Hu and Zeng spoke via the Internet to a European Parliament committee in November, when he criticized the human rights record of the Chinese government and the organizers of this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Hu is best known for his advocacy for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in China, winning several international awards.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised his case during a visit to Beijing last month, while the European Parliament passed a resolution in January calling for his release.