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China rights lawyer charged after a year in detention


chinese lawyerA prominent Chinese human rights lawyer arrested last year was indicted on Friday, officials said amid a sweeping crackdown on dissidents, artists and activists.

Pu Zhiqiang was charged with “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, Beijing prosecutors said on a verified microblog.

“The defendant Pu Zhiqiang used information networks to send many Weibo posts inciting ethnic hatred,” the post said, referring to China’s Twitter-like microblogging service.

Pu “insulted others, disrupted public order and shall be held criminally responsible”, the statement continued.

Pu, a prominent rights campaigner who has represented dissident artist Ai Weiwei, was detained last May and formally arrested the following month for “creating disturbances and illegally obtaining personal information”, charges his legal team say are politically motivated.

Pu has spent more than a year in detention and been subjected to harsh treatment by the authorities, according to a letter written by his wife in December.

“He is suffering from several diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia and heart disease,” Meng Qun wrote in the letter.

“He was interrogated for almost 10 hours every day during the first three months in the detention centre… (and) he was subjected to inhumane torture both physically and mentally.”

Chinese authorities routinely round up outspoken critics of the Communist Party in the weeks before key events, and Pu was among several people detained after attending a private seminar about the Tiananmen Square crackdown, 25 years after the event.

More than 40 journalists, lawyers, scholars and activists were held under various forms of detention ahead of the June 4 anniversary, Amnesty International said, in a larger clampdown than in previous years.

Meanwhile a wider crackdown on dissent has been under way since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office last year.

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