HUAIROU, China (Reuters) - A Chinese court on Friday rejected an appeal by the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, upholding his 11-year sentence on fraud charges, a case seen as another example of official retribution on the Liu family.
Supporters of Liu Hui say his case was trumped up, aimed at thwarting the increasing attention by the rights community on the plight of Liu Xia, who has remained under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Prize in 2010.
The ruling - announced by a court in Huairou, a one-hour drive northeast of Beijing - was not unexpected as China hardens its stance towards the rights community under the rule of newly-installed President Xi Jinping.
The Huairou court upheld the June sentence that Liu Hui, a manager in a real estate company in the southern city of Shenzhen, defrauded a man called Zhang Bing of 3 million yuan ($490,000), along with another colleague. Liu Hui has maintained his innocence, according to his lawyers.
Liu Tong, Liu Hui’s brother, told reporters he was furious at the verdict.
“This result fundamentally will make anyone angry, especially his family members. Because at its heart, it’s a miscarriage of justice,” he said. “The government says daily it wants to prevent wrongful convictions, miscarriages of justice from happening, but everyone knows that this is a miscarriage of justice.”
Shang Baojun, one of Liu Hui’s lawyers, said the decision was “unreasonable”.
“I met with Liu Hui. He thought that the verdict is completely unfair. Frankly speaking, this verdict is a mistake. He does not think he was defrauding anyone,” Shang said, adding Liu Hui was considering a further appeal.
The case has also renewed international concern about the plight of Liu Xiaobo’s family, which has attracted considerable attention in the United States and European Union.
Charles Parton, political affairs counselor for the EU’s mission in Beijing, said the EU expressed regret at the upholding of the sentence.
“Liu’s prosecution and conviction may have been linked to the situation of Liu Xiaobo and his sister, Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, and therefore may have been politically motivated,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.
Liu Hui was allowed out on bail last September, but arrested again in January, after several rights activists and foreign reporters forced their way past security guards late last year to visit Liu Xia, lawyer Shang told Reuters previously.
Liu Xiaobo, a veteran dissident involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests crushed by the Chinese army, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule.
His wife Liu Xia is rarely allowed out and is almost never allowed to receive visitors. She has not been convicted of any crime.
Liu Xia did not appear at the court on Friday as she was feeling unwell, Liu Tong said.
She is currently resting at home and her physical condition is “very fragile”, he added.
Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing buy Ron Popeski