Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chen Guangcheng Retrial

Rare Retrial Begins for Blind Chinese Legal Activist
BEIJING, Nov. 27 -- The retrial of a blind legal activist kicked off in eastern Shandong province Monday, but not without some of the same courtroom tumult that characterized his first trial, which was widely denounced by human rights advocates, lawyers said.

Chen Guangcheng, who embarrassed officials last year by exposing forced abortions and sterilizations, was convicted in August of disrupting traffic and damaging property during a village protest. A Chinese court earlier this month granted a retrial, citing a lack of evidence from the prosecution.

Chen's case, however, suffered another setback Monday, according to his attorneys, one of whom stormed out of the courtroom in protest. Three defense witnesses disappeared before the trial, the attorneys said, marking the second time Chen's allies were unable to speak on his behalf. On the eve of his first trial, the defense team was detained by police and accused of petty theft...

Chen last year highlighted abuses in family planning programs around Linyi, a city of 10 million people about 400 miles southeast of Beijing. Officials, whose promotions depended on not exceeding birth quotas, had forced thousands of men and women to have abortions and sterilizations, often conducting midnight raids and beating or holding residents hostage until they complied.


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