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China: First ‘Jasmine’ Sentence Handed Down

The first sentence has been handed down today following the many arrests and detentions this spring, to 47-year-old Chengdu legal rights activist Li Shuangde.

Following his detention on March 23, Li was convicted Wednesday on charges of credit card fraud and sentenced to four months in prison and fined RMB 20,000. According to legal rights organization Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Li's prison sentence applies retroactively and his term will be up in late July.

Li Shuangde

Li's day in court was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, but according to Li's supporters and former lawyer, Ran Tong, the trial was postponed after the presiding judge learned that Ran intended to plead not guilty on Li's behalf.

Supporter Xing Qingxian was at the courthouse Tuesday, and wrote this account:

5月31日,我8点50就早早来到了锦江区法院门口,锦江区法院在装修,门口和往常一样没有像我们开庭时候那样搞得很紧张,后来才从律师口中得知法院通知的是11点开庭,我和一起去的朋友们只好在附近的茶馆喝茶等待,10点45分,我和朋友们一起通过了法院的安检门,进入法院二楼大厅,在大厅里,我们见到了李双德的母亲,一起聊了一会儿天,就进入了二楼的第五法庭,法庭很小,我们大约去了十多人,就已经坐不下了。

On May 31, I arrived early at 8:50 at the entrance to the Jinjiang District courthouse, which was being renovated. Things inside the courthouse were normal, not nervous like when we'd arrived for court before. Later I heard from the lawyer that court would go into session at 11, so the friends I'd come with and I went to a nearby teahouse to have some tea and wait. At 10:45 we went in through the court security check and up to the hall on the second floor of the court. There we saw Li Shuangde's mother and chatted for a bit before going into courtroom #5. The courtroom was small and there weren't enough seats for the more than ten of us.

Jijiang Court summons to court for the date May 31, 2011

一进门就看见一个小女生在哪里整理文件,可能是书记员,法官此时还没到庭,等到11点15分左右,看见吕姓法官进来了,去法官席上看了看案卷,就出去了,又过了一会,来了一个男法官,说先开他的庭,让我们出去,此时看到带了几个年轻的罪犯进来,我们在法院的大厅里等候,又过了一会,那个女法官通知我们,说今天不开庭了,让我们回去等通知。冉彤律师问为什么,法官说:既然你要做无罪辩护我们需要通知公诉人到庭来支持诉讼, 冉彤和家属朋友都向法官表示:我们并没有表示一定做无罪辩护,我们只想知道李双德认罪,是他的真实意思表达,因为冉彤律师认真研究了证据,认为李双德是无罪的,李双德作为法律工作者不可能不知道自己的行为构不成犯罪,从整个公诉方提供的证据来看,李双德的认罪到底是怎么回事,我们还不清楚,由于冉彤得到开庭通知时间十分紧迫,没来得及见李双德,因此冉彤律师才希望当庭询问李双德,如果李双德认罪,是他自己的真实意思表达,冉彤律师向法官表示,他将不再为李双德辩护;可法官没有同意。

As we went in we saw a young woman sorting some papers, possibly the court secretary. The judge hadn't yet arrived, so we waited until about 11:15 and then judge Lǚ came in and sat down. She looked through some files, then went out. A bit later, a male judge came in and said his cases would go to session first, and asked us to leave. As we left we saw several young criminals being brought in. We waited out in the hall, and some time later a female judge came to notify us that Li's trial would not be held today and that we should go and wait for further notice. Lawyer Ran Tong asked why, and the judge said that seeing as we he was prepared to make a plea of not guilty, that they needed to contact [Li's] family to appear in court to support the proceedings. Both Ran Tong and a friend of the family told the judge that nobody had said they were going plead not guilty, and also that they wanted confirmation that Li Shuangde had confessed, to see if that was his true wish. Ran Tong had studied the evidence submitted for the case and felt that Li Shuangde wasn't guilty. As a legal professional, there was no way that Li Shuangde wouldn't have known that his actions hadn't constituted any crime. Judging also from the evidence submitted by the prosecution, Li Shuangde's confession made no sense, and nor did we understand it. As Ran Tong had received notice from the court rather late, there hadn't been any time for him to meet with Li Shuangde beforehand, and he hoped to be able to question him in court. Lawyer Ran Tong told the judge that if Li Shuangde had confessed, and that was his true intent, then he would not represent Li in court. The judge wouldn't agree.

[...]

匆匆吃过饭后,冉彤律师马上赶到看守所,希望会见李双德,询问他的真实意思,并告诉他现有证据的情况,但看守所说李双德已经调监,不允许会见,更蹊跷的是,不久李双德的母亲打电话给冉彤律师,让冉彤律师不要再去会见李双德。

We quickly ate some lunch, and then lawyer Ran Tong rushed over the the detention center, hoping both to meet with Li Shuangde and ask him what his true wishes were, as well as to update him regarding the evidence in the case. But the detention center said that Li Shuangde had already been transfered to another facility, and wasn't being allowed to meet with anyone. Even stranger, Li Shuangde's mother called Ran Tong shortly thereafter and told him not to go back to see Li Shuangde again.

Ran returned Wednesday morning to the detention center where Li had been held, and was told by staff there that Li had already been taken to the Jijiang District court and assigned a new lawyer.

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