The lawyers of Chen Guangcheng, who is renowned for revealing forced abortions in the province, claim his trial was riddled with illegalities and that testimonies were "obtained by torture".
Linyi (AsiaNews/SCMP) Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist committed to fighting against forced abortions in Shandong, has appealed a sentence of four years' imprisonment handed down on 24 August. The Yinan County court found him guilty of "intentionally damaging property" and "organising a mob to disrupt traffic".
One of his lawyers said the sentence had to be overturned because "it was pronounced in a trial that had many unlawful procedures". The lawyer, Li Fangping, said: "All the evidence heard by the court cannot be accepted because it was obtained through torture. Moreover, Xu Zhiyong, his lawyer, was arrested two days before the trial and replaced by two lawyers who had never met Chen."
Li Jingsong, another lawyer assisting the activist, said the appeal would be presented today to the Linyi Intermediate People's Court and a hearing would be held within a month if it was accepted. Chen's relatives said the sentence "does not make sense, because Chen was under house arrest when the riots were going on."
Chen is known across the country for his work for people with disabilities and for his campaign again government birth control policies. He helped journalists of the Washington Post to unearth evidence of a coercive abortion campaign targeting women in his city. Thanks to the information he provided, the American newspaper was able to prove that in recent years, the authorities of central-eastern province had forcibly sterilized more than 7,000 people.
After the allegations were published, China's Family Planning Agency was forced to admit on 19 September last year that some government representatives "had carried out forced abortions and sterilizations in violation of citizens' legal rights."
Last week, Xinhua reported Chen's sentence: since then, more than 100 members of human rights and religious bodies from over 30 countries have written to President Hu Jintao protesting against the treatment and farcical trial of the activist.