Beijing court upholds Liu Xiaobo's initial sentence   2010-02-11 11:36:58 FeedbackPrintRSS

BEIJING, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Higher People's Court of Beijing Municipality Thursday rejected Liu Xiaobo's appeal and upheld the first trial's verdict of agitation aimed at subverting the government.

Beijing's First Intermediate People's Court sentenced Liu to 11 years in prison on Dec. 25, 2009.

A statement from the higher court said the final verdict was made after the court reviewed Liu's case files, questioned Liu himself, heard opinions from his defense lawyers and conducted a second trial.

Liu's family and some members of the public were present in the court when the judgement was announced.

"Liu's verdict is sound on legal basis and factual proof," said Prof. Gao Mingxuan, president of the International Association of Penal Law China Branch and honorary chairman of the Criminal Law Research Association of the China Law Society.

Although freedom of expression is an extremely important right of Chinese citizens and protected by China's Constitution and laws, Gao said citizens could not exercise the right without any restrictions whatsoever.

According to China's Constitution, Chinese citizens' exercise of their freedoms and rights should not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society, or the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

It is the duty of Chinese citizens to safeguard the security, honor and interests of the country, according to the Constitution.

Gao said China's Constitution was in line with the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that freedom of expression may be subject to certain lawful restrictions necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others and the protection of national security and public order.

Most countries in the world, including Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Singapore, had criminal laws aimed at stopping people from insulting and slandering others, instigating ethnic hatred and discrimination, and subverting the government, Gao said.

He said Liu had published a number of articles which exceeded the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Liu had spread anti-government rumors and slanders, and had organized and persuaded other people to join activities aimed at overturning the current government, Gao said, adding that his conduct was dangerous to the country.

"The court's verdict is in accordance with China's Criminal Law and is in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as internationally-recognized restriction of norms regarding freedom of expression," he said.

Chen Weidong, deputy director of the Criminal Procedure Law Institution under the China Law Society, said some western criticism of the procedures used in Liu's case were biased. A public trial is a fundamental principle according to China's Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law, he added.

"Due to limited capacity in the court, or large numbers of applicants, it is not unusual for some people who want to observe the trial to not be able to," Chen said.

"It should be understood that some foreign reporters and diplomats were not able to attend the first-stance trial because there were too many applicants and too few permission cards."

"And Liu's wife should be prohibited from attending the trial, according to the law, because she was a witness in the case," Chen said.

"Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to doubt or deny the public trial in the first instance," Chen said.

Chen also said it was "arbitrary" to say Liu's litigation rights had not been fully protected because of the shortness of the trial.

"Liu and his two lawyers had a whole year to prepare a defence before the court trial," Chen added.

Prof. Zhao Bingzhi with Institution of Criminal Law under China Law Society said the 11-year imprisonment verdict to Liu Xiaobo conforms with the basic principles of the country's Criminal Law.

One of the Criminal Law's basic principles is that criminal penalties be imposed in proportion to the dangerousness of the criminal and the criminal's level of guilt, Zhao said.

In terms of the agitation charges, Zhao added, the judges consider three major factors: the agitation's goal, the method, and the suspect's criminal record.

According to China's Criminal Law, agitation aimed at subverting state power brings a maximum imprisonment of 15 years. Agitation expression methods include oral and through the media, with agitation through the Internet being regarded as more serious than the oral method.

Prof. Zhao said that the final verdict of 11-years imprisonment is essential and based on the following facts:

Liu Xiaobo's file shows that he has been engaged in agitation activities for a long time. He was convicted of agitation in 1991 but was exempted from criminal penalty that year. He was punished with a three-year re-education through compulsory labor sentence in 1996 for disturbing social order.

Liu spread his agitation through the Internet by using the network's speed and its ability to grab vast public attention. He also organized and induced others to sign the petition, which has been widely linked to, republished and browsed on the Internet.

Editor: Lin Zhi
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