NYT: Rights Advocate Wins a Retrial, a Rarity in the Chinese Courts

In a stunning move, an appeals court has overturned the guilty verdict of activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng. Chen was sentenced to four years in prison this past summer after launching a crusade against the forced sterilization of peasant women.

Mr. Chen’s first trial was widely condemned as a travesty. Beijing-based lawyers whom Mr. Chen chose to defend him were harassed before the trial and then barred from the hearing. The court assigned Mr. Chen two local attorneys who introduced no evidence, called no witnesses and did not contest the charges against him.

It is unclear why an appeals court in Linyi, which is the same urban area where local officials ordered the crackdown on Mr. Chen, would decide to overturn the verdict against him.

It is possible that higher authorities told the court to do so. But it is also possible that the maneuver was intended to prevent having the case appealed to a higher court that does not answer to local authorities.

The actual prospects for a new trial are uncertain.

Cross-posted at Jottings from the Granite Studio

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