Jailed Nobel Peace laureate seeks retrial

Published: 4:02 AM, November 20, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, November 21, 2013

BEIJING — Five years into his 11-year prison term, Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo plans to challenge his subversion conviction on grounds that he was legally exercising his right to free speech, his lawyer said yesterday.

The complaint seeking a retrial would likely have slim chances of success. But lawyer Mo Shaoping said Liu’s family no longer feels they have anything to lose by challenging the conviction and that his lawyers hope to test recent pledges by China’s ruling Communist Party to make the country’s judicial system more independent.

Liu was convicted and sentenced to jail in 2009 on a charge of subversion, after he authored and disseminated a document — Charter ’08 — calling for democracy. He was awarded the Peace Prize in 2010 for two decades of non-violent struggle for civil rights, a decision that angered Beijing, which denounced the award.

Liu’s conviction was upheld by an appeals court in Beijing and his family members initially did not plan to challenge the verdict any further. However, they renewed their resolve to fight the verdict after the authorities earlier this year jailed his wife’s brother on a fraud conviction in a case critics say was a political punishment for Liu’s pro-democracy advocacy.

“They have nothing more to worry about,’’ Mr Mo said. He added that Liu agreed to the new legal challenge during a prison visit by his wife last month. Mr Mo said he and a fellow lawyer have asked to meet Liu to discuss details, but are awaiting permission from the local jurisdiction in China’s north-east, where Liu is locked up.

“He has never accepted the guilty verdict,’’ Mr Mo said.

The lawyer said the challenge could test Beijing’s pledges last week to grant more independence to the country’s courts.

“We would like to know whether Liu’s Charter ’08 was an exercise of freedom of speech and whether that constituted a crime,’’ Mr Mo said. “With outside intervention excluded, the conclusion should be obvious.” AP