12/22/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Three-year suspended sentence for dissident lawyer Pu Zhiqiang

The lawyer and human rights activist was found guilty of "inciting ethnic hatred" and "disrupting the public peace” for online comments criticizing excessive force in Xinjiang, the honesty of the Communist Party and nationalist rhetoric over the islands disputed with Japan. He has already spent 19 months in jail, in "preventive detention". A leader of the Tiananmen movement, has spent the last 25 years in court defending activists and dissidents.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The No. 2 Beijing Intermediate People's Court has sentenced the dissident lawyer Pu Zhiqiang to three years in prison. The sentence was suspended, but it is unclear whether the lawyer has already been released. He has already spent 19 months in jail in "preventive detention".

The judges found him guilty of "inciting ethnic hatred" and "disrupting the public peace” because of his comments posted online criticizing the use of excessive force by the authorities in the western province of Xinjiang.

This morning, before the reading of the verdict, a group of journalists and supporters gathered outside the court. According to some sources, there was also a clash with the police, and 12 activists were taken away by officers. Pu is the latest dissident personality (in time) to be convicted and imprisoned for his commitment to human rights. According to Chinese Human Rights Defender (CHRD), the verdict of the judges "demonstrates the concept of 'rule of law' in China."

Pu’s friends and comrades believe that the online posts are only "one of the causes" that led to the persecution of the lawyer. In his writings, he described the Chinese Communist Party "an entity which cannot be trusted" and made fun of the excessive nationalist rhetoric of the authorities regarding the Senkaku / Diaoyu, disputes with Japan. But the real goal is his career, which began immediately after the riots in Tiananmen: Pu has indeed defended several dissidents and human rights activists in court.

Pu Zhiqiang, writes the CHRD commenting on the judgment, "should be able to go home today, but he is not free. He pays for exercising his right to speak. During pre-trial detention his health deteriorated, and obviously his career as a lawyer is now over".

The lawyer graduated from the University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. In 1989 he took part in the Tiananmen Square movement, and was one of 13 students to start a hunger strike to protest the corruption of the government. Over the past 25 years he has always remembered the June 4 massacre, and every anniversary goes to the central square in Beijing to commemorate the dead. In 2008 he was among the first to sign Charter 08, the document drawn up by pro-democracy Liu Xiaobo, which led to Li’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and sentence of 14 years in prison.

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