Liu Xiaobo: China's Top Pro-Democracy Dissident Goes on Trial

Article excerpt

The trial of leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for 'state subversion' lasted just a few hours Wednesday as supporters and diplomats barred from attending thronged the courtroom in near- freezing cold. A verdict is expected Friday.

The subversion trial of Liu Xiaobo, China's most prominent dissident,

opened and shut in Beijing on Wednesday in strict secrecy without an

immediate outcome. The verdict is now expected to be postponed until

Christmas Day.

The delay and the degree of secrecy - even Mr. Liu's wife was

barred from the courtroom - contrast sharply with the widespread

international attention that the case against the Tiananmen-era

pro-democracy activist has drawn.

It is "quite unusual" for a Chinese criminal trial to be left

hanging this way, said Teng Biao, a prominent human rights lawyer and

one of 60 people who stood outside the courtroom Wednesday in

near-freezing temperatures before he and seven others were removed by

plainclothes police. "Although I cannot predict the outcome, it is

very likely that Liu Xiaobo will be guilty and imprisoned for at

least five years under Chinese criminal law," he told The Monitor by

telephone.

Liu's attorney Ding Xikui, speaking to The Monitor by telephone in

defiance of a court order barring press interviews after he left the

roughly three-hour morning trial, said the court would announce a

verdict on Friday.

Held for a year without trialLiu faces up to 15 years in prison, the

maximum sentence for "incitement to subvert state power," a catchall

charge often used by Chinese prosecutors to silence critics of the

one-party government.

The essayist and literary critic was detained on Dec. 8, 2008,

apparently for his role in drafting "Charter 08," a call for greater

democracy in China. The charter, initially signed by 300 people, was

published on the Internet two days later to mark the 60th anniversary

of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has since attracted

more than 10,000 signatures, mostly from mainland Chinese.

Meanwhile, Liu was held in a secret location for six months, then

formally arrested and transferred to Beijing's Detention Center No. …