Top Chinese Rights Lawyer Tried in Secret

December 13, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: December 13, 2006 12:00 am

Prominent civil rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was secretly tried in Beijing on unspecified subversion charges this week, but the verdict remains unknown, a friend of Gao's told the Epoch Times on Tuesday.

“They concluded his trial in secret this morning,” Gao's wife Geng He told family friend and AIDS activist Hu Jia, according to a recording of their conversation obtained by Radio Free Asia. “The family had not been informed. Nor do we know the two court-appointed attorneys. We've never met them. We know nothing.”

Mo Shaoping, a lawyer appointed by Gao's family, told the Epoch Times that he was not notified of the trial before it took place and was not permitted to attend.

A letter from him and another lawyer to Gao's brother and wife states that the attorneys learned Monday that their client had been tried that morning by the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People's Court.

The two attorneys also reportedly discovered that the court had appointed two defense lawyers to represent Gao at the trial, where he was said to have confessed to the charges against him.

“The fact that the Court appointed two attorneys to represent him at the trial is something that defies common sense, logic, and the law,” they wrote in the letter.

“We cannot comment on the claim that at the trial Gao Zhisheng confessed to the charges of subversion because: We were unable to meet with Gao Zhisheng to know his view on the charges; we have not seen the written indictment and evidence presented by the prosecution regarding 'subversion;' moreover, we did not attend the trial this morning,” they wrote.

The secret trial with court-appointed lawyers comes on the heels of the regime's attempt to coerce Gao's wife into giving up her right to choose an attorney to represent him. On Dec. 8, a day after Geng signed a contract appointing Mo to the case, the department head of the Beijing security forces specializing in Gao's case, Sun Wei, went to Gao's home with several other policemen.

When Geng opened the door to go grocery shopping, the officers forcibly entered. Geng says they threatened her to immediately withdraw her application to have Mo defend Gao, warning that it would not benefit anyone. Following six hours of police attempts to force Geng to renounce the contract with Mo, she still refused.

According to Mo, such behavior by the authorities is blatantly illegal. “Anybody, no matter what the accused crime is, has the right to obtain a lawyer's help and defense,” he says. “This is the right of every citizen regulated by the law of the Constitution.”

At the time, Geng reportedly speculated that the authorities would try Gao in secret. Hu Jia says she is now worried by the secrecy surrounding the hearing and fears the courts will not allow Gao to appeal, but are instead trying to finalize his sentence in a single trial.

Gao, who was named one of China's top ten lawyers in 2001, has been detained since August. His arrest was the culmination of months of harassment, threats and beatings following his publication of an open letter exposing the torture of Falun Gong practitioners and his public withdrawal from the Chinese Communist Party. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have expressed fears that he has been tortured in custody.

Hu says he hopes the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Olympic Committee will to get involved in Gao's case.