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Activist’s sentence called harsh

Fri., Aug. 25, 2006

A blind rural activist who attracted international attention for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in eastern China was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on charges that he damaged property and disturbed traffic, state media reported Thursday.

Supporters of the activist, Chen Guangcheng, immediately denounced the verdict, which came less than a week after a closed-door trial at which he had been deprived of his defense team.

Chen, 34, originally faced five years in prison on the charges, which stem from an incident in his village in February. He received a far more severe sentence than others charged in connection with the case, his wife and lawyers said.

His supporters say the charges were trumped up to retaliate against him for preparing a class-action lawsuit that embarrassed local family planning officials last year. He took testimony from thousands of residents who said officials had raided the homes of families with two children and demanded at least one parent be sterilized. They also said authorities had forced women pregnant with a third child to have abortions.


Another charged in alleged plot

A 12th suspect was charged Thursday in the alleged plot to use liquid explosives to down U.S. airliners over the Atlantic, British police said.

In another development in the case, Britain’s charity regulator froze the bank accounts of an aid organization while it investigated alleged links to the foiled plot.

The suspects are linked to an alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger jets. The case set off terrorism alerts in the United States and Britain when it was revealed two weeks ago.

Umair Hussain, 24, who was arrested Aug. 10, was charged with having information about a possible terrorist act and not disclosing it, Scotland Yard said.

Eight of the other suspects appeared in court this week on charges of conspiracy to murder and preparing to commit acts of terrorism. Three others were charged with lesser offenses.


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