A Shanghai court has sentenced Zheng Enchong, a prominent lawyer who advised residents on property disputes with the government, to three years' jail for leaking state secrets. The Shanghai No2 Intermediate People's Court announced the ruling yesterday, two months after Zheng went on trial for 'illegally providing state secrets to entities outside China'. Prosecutors based their case on two matters. One was an essay Zheng wrote about evictions for property development in Shanghai, which he distributed to western human rights organisations. The other was providing information to overseas media about laid-off workers protesting against their inadequate compensation from a Shanghai factory. Speaking after a 30-minute court session, Zheng's lawyer said his client would appeal against the ruling within 10 days, as allowed under mainland law, and maintained that Zheng was innocent. 'The verdict should be innocent,' the lawyer said. Foreign human rights groups say mainland law allows authorities to broadly interpret what constitutes a state secret. The court session took place under tight security, with dozens of police officers pushing back spectators and media gathered outside the court house, witnesses said. Local television showed footage of the verdict being read as Zheng stood with two court officers holding his arms. Zheng's wife, Jiang Meili, said she was allowed into the courtroom to hear the verdict, but had no contact with her husband. A human rights group said the verdict was politically motivated and meant to warn protesters and the legal profession about the growing number of demonstrations and lawsuits against local governments over evictions and compensation for old homes. Before his detention on June 6, Zheng was advising two groups of residents who alleged there had been corrupt dealings in the allocation of land to developer Chau Ching-ngai. The residents lost both cases, while Chau is now awaiting trial for financial crimes. Shanghai revoked Zheng's licence to practise law in 2001, but he continued to advise in hundreds of cases involving relocation.