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'Tortured' Chinese rights activist is jailed

Ni Yulan, a Chinese human rights defender left wheelchair-bound after police mistreatment, was sentenced yesterday to two years and eight months in jail for fraud and "unruly behaviour".

Her husband, Dong Jiqin, was also jailed for two years. Ms Ni and Mr Dong were picked up just over a year ago during a dragnet aimed at preventing Arab Spring-style unrest taking hold in China. The couple are known for their advocacy for people forced out of their homes to make way for the renovation before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ms Ni, 52, had appeared in court in bed. She said that due to repeated torture over the past decade, she cannot walk and suffers from many chronic conditions, including breathing difficulties.

The unruly behaviour charge relates to a disturbance at a guesthouse the couple stayed in after their home was destroyed, when they allegedly tore up the registration book and shouted at the staff. The court also said the couple failed to pay 69,972 yuan (£6,997) in hotel bills.

Ms Ni was also convicted of posing as a lawyer and receiving 5,000 yuan (£500) through deceit. Over the past 10 years the authorities have repeatedly subjected her to harassment, jail and torture. In 2002, they revoked her licence to practise law as retaliation for her human rights work. "By handing down this verdict, the Chinese government tells the world defiantly it has nothing but disdain for human rights and it treats its international and constitutional obligations as decorations," said Renee Xia at China Human Rights Defenders.

The European Union said it was "deeply concerned" about the sentence.