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China Court Upholds Five-Year Sentence for Earthquake Activist Tan Zuoren

Posted by Author on June 10, 2010

Human Rights in China, June 9, 2010 –

The Sichuan Provincial Higher People’s Court has upheld the five-year sentence, with three years of deprivation of political rights, of Tan Zuoren (谭作人), the Sichuan environmental activist and writer convicted of “inciting subversion of state power.” The decision was announced on June 9, 2010, in a 12-minute-long hearing held in the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, the court that originally tried Tan on August 12, 2009.  In the appeal statement he filed after the original guilty verdict, Tan declared: “I am not guilty; I don’t accept [the verdict]; I protest; I appeal.”

Tan’s lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that he did not expect a different outcome. “This was not a trial in accordance with law, but a trial to protect the interests of the local government,” said Pu.

Tan was first detained in March 28, 2009, three days after the online release of a report titled  Independent Investigation Report by Citizens, which presented findings of an investigation he conducted with a colleague, Xie Yihui (谢贻卉), into the causes of the widespread collapse of school buildings during the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. The subsequent indictment, which charged Tan with “inciting subversion of state power,” did not, however, mention his earthquake investigation.  Rather, the indictment cited as evidence his 2007 essay on the 1989 Democracy Movement, “Bearing Witness to the Ultimate Beauty—Diary of an Eyewitness from the Square” (见证最后的美丽——一个目击者的广场日记), and his proposal for a blood drive to commemorate the 20th anniversary of June Fourth.

Before the August 2009 trial, prominent artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未), who had traveled to Chengdu and prepared to be a witness for Tan, was beaten by Chengdu police and detained in his hotel room for 11 hours. The court did not allow any defense witnesses to attend the trial.  During the trial, the judge repeatedly interrupted Pu, and Tan was not allowed to make his final statement.

The Chengdu court announced its guilty verdict on February 9, 2010, nearly half a year after the trial, in violation of the Criminal Procedure Law which allows a maximum period of two-and-a- half months for a trial court to issue a ruling after accepting the case (Article 168). Tan appealed one day after the verdict was issued. The appeal decision, handed down today, four months afterwards, is also in violation of the Criminal Procedure Law which stipulates in Article 196 that an appeal trial should be concluded within one-and-a-half months after the filing of the appeal.

Human Rights in China

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