December 20, 2009 / 12:57 PM / 10 years ago

China to try prominent dissident on Wednesday: lawyer

Demonstrators hold pictures of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo during a protest, urging Nobel peace prize recipient U.S. President Barack Obama to demand the Chinese government to release all dissidents, outside the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong October 23, 2009. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese prosecutors will put Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s best-known dissidents, on trial on subversion charges on Wednesday in Beijing, Liu’s lawyer and wife said on Sunday.

Despite Liu’s trial coming shortly before Christmas, it is sure to receive widespread international attention. Political leaders in Europe and Washington have expressed concern about the case.

Liu has been among his country’s best known critics of restrictions on citizens’ rights, and was detained late last year while helping oversee the launch of the “Charter 08” petition for political change.

Chinese authorities said last week they had decided to try Liu on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for publishing essays critical of the ruling Communist Party and for his role in organizing the “Charter 08” petition.

Liu’s lawyer Shang Baojun said on Sunday that a Beijing court had notified him the dissident would be tried on Wednesday. Shang said he had been notified by telephone and was awaiting formal written notice of the precise time of the trial.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia said she had also been notified of the impending trial and was sure her husband would fight the charges.

If convicted, the 53-year-old former literature professor could be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Chinese courts come under Communist Party control and rarely reject prosecution accusations, especially in politically sensitive cases.

The European Union has urged China to release Liu unconditionally, while the United States pressed Beijing to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for “internationally recognized freedoms.”

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said last week such calls amounted to interference in the country’s judiciary.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Alison Williams

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