11/28/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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China continues to deny justice to those who fight for human rights

During Chen Guancheng's retrial, his lawyers complain key witnesses were kidnapped. Harsh sentences and beating inflicted on the sons of Rebiya Kadeer, defender of Uyghur minority rights. An anti-AIDS activist is arrested to prevent him from holding a public forum on the issue.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China's justice system continues to strike the country's human rights activists.  The trial of Chen Guangcheng (an activist against forced abortions) has seen witnesses disappear. In Xinjiang, two sons of dissident Rebiya Kadeer were found guilty in tax evasion. In Beijing an AIDS activist is jailed for organising a public forum.

The blind activist, who focused world attention on coercive birth-control measures by village officials in Shandong province, was given an unusually harsh sentence of four years and three months in jail in August for damaging property and organising a mob to disrupt traffic. But he was granted a surprise retrial late last month for irregularities (three of Mr Chen's lawyers were arrested and replaced with court-appointed counsel). His retrial began yesterday with the disappearance of four witnesses and the brief detention of one of his lawyer.

His current defence team said four key witnesses for the defendant were "kidnapped" on Sunday by local officials, including villager Chen Guanghe, who was taken away by several unidentified people in front of the lawyers on Sunday.

More than 30 people blocked defence lawyers from entering Chen Guangcheng's home village of Dongshigu on Sunday when they were attempting to collect more evidence.

Chen's lawyer, Li Jinsong, complained that the trial took place in an atmosphere of intimidation.

After hearing other witness, the court adjourned to deliberate. A verdict is expected in a few days.

A court in Tianshan district (Urumqi) sentenced Alimu Ahbudurimu, son of Uygur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, to seven year in jail and 500,000 yuan in fines for tax evasion.

Ms Kadeer was detained in 1999, tried and imprisoned for five years on charges of "leaking state secrets", having sent newspaper clippings abroad. Released after an international campaign, she now lives in exile in the United States, but Chinese authorities have taken various legal actions against her company and her children who are still in China.

Alimu Ahbudurimu, who is already in prison, was convicted of evading taxes for 208,430 yuan as the attorney for the Ahkeda Trading Co. His brother, Kahaer Ahbudurimu, was also found guilty of evading nearly 2.5 million yuan in taxes but spared a jail term.

Two of her other sons were beaten by police after being detained in June; a third has gone missing after charges of subversion were levelled at him. A daughter is also under house arrest.

All this "is clear retribution for Rebiya Kadeer's advocacy on behalf of Uyghurs," said Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher in Hong Kong for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch. "We have great doubt about the fairness of the trial and they [Ms Kadeer's sons] have not been able to get meaningful legal representation."

Yesterday instead police freed leading AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, three days after he planned to hold a public forum on the disease on Sunday, World Aids Day.

Nothing is known about the charges, but Mr Wan was detained by officials from the Public Security Bureau to "discuss" the workshop, the Aids Action Project said.

The group wants health authorities to provide help, including compensation, drugs and medical care, to the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who received tainted blood. (PB)

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