Disabled land-rights activist Ni Yulan (pictured) was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail by a Beijing court yesterday on charges including fraud and inciting a disturbance.
Ni's husband, retired teacher Dong Jiqin, was also jailed for two years on the first charge.
They were detained last April when authorities rounded up dozens of activists amid anonymous internet calls for rallies on the mainland inspired by the 'jasmine revolutions' sweeping the Arab world.
Ni, a lawyer and herself a victim of a Beijing land seizure, has been offering legal advice to victims of land evictions and in housing rights cases for years.
This is the third time she has been convicted by a court and jailed. She was sentenced to a year's jail in 2002 and for two years in 2008.
Amid a heavy police presence outside the Xicheng district court, the sentencing took just 10 minutes, said their daughter, Dong Xuan, 27, who was present when the verdict was handed down.
'My parents looked very weak. She [Ni] was in a wheelchair in a cotton-padded coat with a uniform overcoat on her lap.
'I couldn't see her face or eyes as she didn't turn around to look back,' she said by phone yesterday.
'A part of my father's face was swollen, and he had a bandage near his eyebrows. I asked him how he was doing, and he replied he was all right.
'He probably didn't want to worry me too much, but I couldn't help thinking that he looked like he might have been beaten.'
Defence lawyer Cheng Hai plans to meet Ni, 52, this week to get her signature to file an appeal.
Rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said Ni was arrested last year because the authorities were concerned about her ability to draw the attention of domestic and foreign media. 'More petitioners turned to her and gathered around her at times in Beijing, which is what the authorities most feared,' he said.
The couple were convicted of failing to pay a 69,972 yuan (HK$86,000) bill at a hotel where police forced them to stay for 10 months from June 2010. Their stay at the hotel started after Ni had attracted media attention by offering legal advice to people. She was then living in a tent at the Huangchenggen Relics Park in Beijing after her release from jail in April that year.
The couple were convicted of fraud for accepting a 5,000 yuan donation from a woman who later disappeared. 'She is innocent and the accusations are unfair,' Cheng said.
Ni has been confined to a wheelchair since 2002, when her kneecaps and feet were broken while in detention, according to Amnesty International. Her house was demolished in 2002.