A Beijing court has upheld an 11-year prison sentence for the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo - a fraud case seen as an example of official retribution against the dissident's family.
Supporters of Liu Hui say his conviction in June was based on trumped-up fraud charges and aimed at thwarting the increased attention by the rights community on the plight of his sister, Liu Xia , who has remained under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Prize three years ago.
Liu Xia is rarely allowed out and is almost never allowed to receive visitors. She has not been convicted of any crime. Liu Xia did not appear at the court on Friday as she was feeling unwell, Liu Tong said.
She is currently resting at home and her physical condition is "very fragile", he added.
The ruling - announced by a court in Huairou district, in northeastern Beijing - was not a surprise as the central government has hardened its stance on activists since President Xi Jinping took power.
The Huairou court upheld the June sentence that Liu Hui, a manager at a real estate company in Shenzhen, defrauded a man called Zhang Bing of three million yuan (HK$3.8 million), along with another colleague.
Liu Hui has maintained his innocence throughout, his lawyers said.
Liu Tong , Liu Hui's brother, told reporters he was furious at the verdict.
"This result fundamentally would make anyone angry, especially his family. Because, at its heart, it's a miscarriage of justice," he said.
"The government says daily it wants to prevent wrongful convictions, miscarriages of justice from happening, but everyone knows that this is a miscarriage of justice."
Shang Baojun , one of Liu Hui's lawyers, said the decision was "unreasonable".
"I met Liu Hui. He thinks that the verdict is completely unfair. Frankly speaking, this verdict is a mistake. He did not think he was defrauding anyone," Shang said, adding Liu Hui was considering a further appeal.
The case has also renewed international concern about the plight of Liu Xiaobo's family, which has attracted considerable attention in the United States and European Union.
Foreign diplomats and journalists who sought to attend the trial were denied entry to the court, which was cordoned off with crime scene tape and surrounded by dozens of police officers and private security guards in a sign of the case's sensitivity and high visibility.
Charles Parton, political affairs counsellor for the EU's mission in Beijing, said the organisation expressed regret at the decision to uphold the sentence.
"Liu's prosecution and conviction may have been linked to the situation of Liu Xiaobo and his sister, Liu Xia, and therefore may have been politically motivated," he told reporters.
Liu Hui was released on bail last September, but arrested again in January, after several rights activists and foreign reporters forced their way past security guards to visit Liu Xia.
Reuters and Associated Press