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Attorneys for blind China activist detained – lawyer

Posted by Author on August 17, 2006

By Chris Buckley, BEIJING (Reuters), Thu Aug 17, 2006– Attorneys for a blind rights activist facing trial in eastern China appear to have been detained by police, another lawyer said on Thursday, the day before the scheduled start of the trial.Chen Guangcheng is due to face trial in Shandong province on Friday on charges of disrupting traffic and destroying property following a protest in his home village in February.

Chen, a blind, self-taught legal activist in his 30s, drew international attention last year after accusing local officials of enforcing late-term abortions in a population control drive.

His family and supporters say the charges against him are trumped up and he is being persecuted for his activism.

His scheduled trial after almost a year in virtual house arrest and then police detention has become a lightning rod of contention between rights activists and security-wary officials.

Police in Shandong’s Yinan county, where Chen lives, held three attorneys preparing to defend him, accused them of stealing a purse and took them away on Thursday, another of Chen’s lawyers, Li Jinsong, told Reuters by telephone.

Li said he received a call from one of the attorneys, Zhang Lihui, telling him of the police action. “He couldn’t say much before the phone call suddenly ended,” Li said.

Repeated calls by Reuters to the mobile phones of two other attorneys said to be held — Xu Zhiyong and Li Fangping — were not answered late into Thursday night. The police station where Li Jinsong said they had been taken could not be contacted.

“We don’t know what’s happening, but it fits a pattern,” said Hu Jia, a Beijing-based rights campaigner in contact with the defence team. “Yinan County wants to prevent any effective defence for Chen Guangcheng.”

Hu said the three attorneys were seeking to prepare Chen’s defence but court officials “made their work very difficult”.

In June, Li Jinsong and other lawyers were roughed up when they went to visit Chen. In July, dozens of Chen’s supporters scuffled with people they described as thugs and plainclothes police when they gathered at a court for a cancelled hearing.

On Thursday, police in another part of Shandong detained an outspoken human rights lawyer who was present at that clash.

Gao Zhisheng was taken away by more than 10 plainclothes police from his sister’s home in Shandong’s Dongying city, activist Hu Jia told Reuters, adding he received the news from the sister. It was unclear whether Gao was intending to go to Chen’s trial again.

Chen’s case has also drawn warnings from Washington.

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey said she raised it with officials while in Beijing, the Washington Post reported.

“We believe that there has been a certain violation of normal standards and are urging China to release him from imprisonment,” said Sauerbrey.

Related:

Chronology of Chen Guangcheng’s Case
AI report 2006- China overview(3)

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