A Shenzhen-based rights lawyer was enjoying his first day of freedom in more than a year yesterday after a court reduced his sentence from two years to 18 months, suspended for two years, for 'deliberately plundering properties' in a dispute over a land development. But Liu Yao said from his home in Shenzhen that he would fight to clear his name and take the case to the provincial higher court to challenge the verdict and obtain a retrial. If the challenge fails, Liu will be barred from practising law for life. Liu was initially given a four-year term in June, but the verdict triggered an outcry among the legal profession and the public, underscoring the risks mainland lawyers face when they take on big businesses that often have the backing of local authorities. The sentence was then reduced to two years because the value of the assets damaged by Liu and the villagers was exaggerated at the first trial. Liu, 47, had been hired by farmers in Lankou town in Dongyuan county, Guangdong province, to fight for compensation from Heyuan Hydraulic Power, a subsidiary of Shenzhen-based Fuyuan Holdings, after farmland was flooded because of a dam it was building. He led a group of about 20 farmers twice in December 2007 to stop construction and force the firm into negotiations, believing the land acquisition was illegal. Liu admitted he had encouraged villagers to remove facilities on those two occasions, but denied he had acted illegally. 'What could we have done wrong, trying to stop an unauthorised land development?' He said the firm once offered him 800,000 yuan (HK$909,000) to drop the case, and he accused the court of ignoring falsified testimony in a trial peppered with legal errors.