Famed activist's appeal rejected

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am

A mainland court has rejected the appeal of environmentalist Wu Lihong , upholding a three-year jail sentence for extortion and fraud for the famed activist, his wife said yesterday.

The Wuxi Intermediate People's Court made the ruling on Friday behind closed doors, his wife, Xu Jiehua , said, adding she and her lawyers had not been informed of the judgment until yesterday.

'The court said there was no new material or evidence,' she said from the couple's home in Yixing , Jiangsu province .

Ms Xu maintained her husband's innocence, saying the government targeted Wu because of his activism. Wu became famous for his efforts to clean up Tai Lake, the site of a massive algal bloom which cut off drinking water supply to millions of people earlier this year.

He was arrested in late May and sentenced in August after a seven-hour trial that found him guilty of extorting 30,000 yuan from a company and fabricating a receipt for the deal. His wife claimed he acted as a middleman in an equipment sale and the money was a service fee.

The Yixing court also ordered him to pay back 35,000 yuan and fined him 3,000 yuan at the original trial.

The case has attracted international attention, in part because of Wu's status as a darling of the mainland media and his recognition by the government as an 'outstanding environmentalist' in 2005.

Ms Xu said she hoped to appeal to a higher court, though it was not clear if the case would be accepted. 'I want to continue to appeal to a higher court. It should be Nanjing ,' she said. Nanjing is the provincial capital.

The Wuxi court apparently delayed a decision until after the Communist Party's politically sensitive 17th National Congress, despite rules requiring a decision within 45 days, Ms Xu said. 'I feel this is extremely difficult to bear.'

Although the government denied the trial was politically motivated, local officials were upset by Wu's more than decade-long effort to shut down factories near Tai Lake, the nation's third-largest freshwater lake, which is heavily polluted.

Ms Xu remains under the watch of police, who are stationed outside her home and follow her when she goes out. She has not been permitted to visit her husband, who is being held in a prison in Yixing.

Although the central government has made sustainable development and reducing pollution key policies, authorities continue to arrest activists who work outside the system.