Du Daobin's supporters are surprised by lenient sentence over Web postings Internet dissident Du Daobin , whose arrest last year triggered petitions seeking his release, went home yesterday after receiving a suspended jail sentence. The Xiaogan Intermediary People's Court in Hubei province sentenced Du, 40, to three years in prison on charges he slandered and subverted state power in 26 articles posted on the internet. The sentence was suspended for four years. The court's leniency took many of Du's supporters by surprise. 'We are pleased he can go home,' said Wang Yi , a petition organiser who has campaigned for Du's release. 'His release shows that the pressure from inside and outside China had a definite impact.' Following Du's arrest in October, dozens of scholars and writers wrote to Premier Wen Jiabao appealing for his release. More than 1,000 supporters demanded an interpretation of the provision relating to sedition in the mainland's criminal law, which they said had become an all- purpose tool for stifling dissent. Among the 26 articles the officials found objectionable were three criticising Article 23 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. Mr Wang, who teaches law at Chengdu University, said the outcome of Du's case was a means for the authorities to save face. The penalty is the same as that given Sun Dawu , a populist entrepreneur whose outspoken criticism of the government landed him in detention on a charge of illegal fund-raising. The leniency shown Du recalls the treatment of Liu Di , a student detained for her internet writings who was released without charge after a year. All three received widespread public support inside and outside China. Mr Wang said such pressure must have persuaded the authorities the arbitrary arrest of such vocal, but harmless, people was not worth the trouble. The outcome of Du's case is all the more surprising given he was not allowed legal representation at his trial a month ago. Political observers attributed his release to intervention by top-level officials. Meanwhile, there is speculation an appeal court will overturn the conviction for corruption and bribery of the former general manager of the Southern Metropolis News, Yu Huafeng, and throw out his 12-year jail term, on Tuesday. The trial for embezzlement of Cheng Yizhong , the paper's former editor-in-chief, appears to have been postponed. Sources said prosecutors were trying to find a face-saving solution to the case against Cheng, after the central government sought an explanation of reports he had been victimised for having run a report about police brutality. President Hu Jintao reportedly instructed local authorities to show leniency to dissidents and members of the media.