China upholds Nobel winner’s relative’s sentence

By Isolda Morillo ,AP

BEIJING — A Chinese court on Friday upheld the 11-year prison sentence handed down to the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, the man’s lawyer said.

Relatives have denounced Liu Hui’s conviction on fraud charges in a real estate dispute as political payback for the strong pro-democracy stance taken by Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned on subversion charges in 2009.

Lawyer Shang Baojun said the court in suburban Beijing’s Huairou district turned down Liu Hui’s appeal.

“We’re very disappointed by this outcome,” Shang told The Associated Press.

Liu Hui’s sister, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel prize in 2010. Shang said that Liu Xia, who has protested her extra-legal detention, did not attend Friday’s hearing because she wasn’t feeling well.

Foreign diplomats and journalists who sought to attend the trial were denied entry to the courthouse.

The European Union’s political officer in Beijing, Charles Parton, said Liu Hui’s case was being closely followed because of its possible ties to Liu Xiaobo’s conviction. Parton called also for the lifting of Liu Xia’s “illegal house arrest.”

“The EU would like to recall the great importance it attaches to the respect of human rights all over the world, the situation of human rights defenders and of their family members, as well as the due process of rule of law in China,” Parton said.

Liu Hui’s brother, Liu Tong, was permitted to attend the hearing but said the outcome had been “very, very disappointing.”

“In our family, we were all hoping to see a good result, a result that would give our family and all of us hope,” Liu said.

Liu said Liu Hui’s case had caused a further deterioration in his sister’s generally poor health.

“This issue brings a lot of psychological pressure and affects her greatly,” he said.

Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel prize incensed China’s leaders, who adamantly rejected his calls for sweeping changes to Beijing’s one-party communist political system contained in a document titled called Charter ’08. A court dismissed his appeal in early 2010.

China also has retaliated against Norway, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, freezing the country’s diplomats out of meetings, halting trade talks, and blocking salmon imports.

Liu Hui’s lawyers have said his dispute over a development deal in Beijing had already been resolved, with the disputed 3 million yuan (US$500,000) handed over to partners in the transaction, before the case went to trial.