Christmas Day verdict for China's dissident

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The Independent Online

A court tried a high-profile Chinese dissident yesterday on subversion charges with the verdict set to be announced on Christmas Day, according to a relative of the defendant.

This would be the latest example of authorities moving against activists around major holidays, a pattern that rights groups say is aimed at having the prosecutions go unnoticed.

Liu Xiaobo was detained a year ago, just before the release of the Charter 08 manifesto, an unusually direct appeal he co-authored demanding sweeping political reforms and an end to Communist Party dominance. More than 300 people signed it, including some of China's top intellectuals.

The defendant's brother-in-law, Liu Hui, said yesterday's trial, in which prosecutors accused Liu Xiaobo of "serious" crimes, had lasted about two hours. The vaguely worded charge of inciting to subvert state power is routinely used to jail dissidents and carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Liu Hui was allowed into the No. 1 Intermediate People's Court in Beijing, but authorities kept out US and other diplomats as well as the defendant's wife, Liu Xia.

Liu Xiaobo, who appeared healthy and in good spirits, is the only person to have been arrested for organising the Charter 08 appeal, but others who signed it have reportedly been harassed. Liu Hui said his relative admitted "to practicing his freedom of speech, but did not admit to trying to overturn the state's power".

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