Brother-in-law of Liu Xiaobo faces up to 14 years in jail, says lawyer
As relative of jailed Nobel laureate prepares to stand trial, lawyer reveals sentence recommended by prosecutors and tells of Liu Xia's 'heartache'
The brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who has been arrested on fraud charges, could be sentenced to as long as 14 years in prison if convicted, his lawyer said yesterday.
Lawyer Shang Baojun said Liu Hui, 43, is due to stand trial on April 23 at the Huairou district People's Court on the outskirts of Beijing.
He said the Huairou prosecutor's office recommended the court hand down a jail term of between 12 and 14 years.
Phone calls to the Huairou prosecutor's office were not answered yesterday.
Shang said Liu Hui was arrested by police on January 31 over a property estate dispute, but he insisted he was a victim of official retaliation over his dissident brother-in-law and his older sister, Liu Xia .
Since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel prize two-and-a-half years ago, his wife, Liu Xia, has been put under round-the-clock house arrest with no access to the internet and phones. She is allowed to visit her parents only once a week and her husband in Jinzhou Prison, 450 kilometres east of Beijing, once a month.
Liu Hui believed his arrest was the result of officials' anger over two visits to Liu Xia in recent months by reporters and activists who broke the security cordon around her, said Shang.
Liu Xia appeared shaken and emotional on both occasions.
Her supporters tried to visit her again recently but did not succeed because security has since been stepped up.
Shang said her brother's arrest has caused Liu Xia - who is already in a fragile emotional state due to her isolation - tremendous "heartache". He said she wrote to lawyers begging them to help Liu Hui, saying she believed he was innocent.
"They are very close, so she is very anxious about her brother. She is under a lot of mental stress andis very nervous," said Shang, who is also unable to meet her.
Liu's elderly father is in hospital and probably knows nothing of his son's arrest, but her mother is under great stress, he said.
The indictment says Liu Hui and his business partner defrauded a contractor of three million yuan (HK$3.7 million).
But Shang said the case was a business dispute and should have been a civil lawsuit. Mo Shaoping , who is also Liu's lawyer, said earlier the disputed funds had been returned and there was insufficient evidence of a crime.
Liu was previously arrested by police in April last year over the same dispute but was released on bail in September, the indictment shows. Shang, who saw Liu on Wednesday, said he has diabetes and has lost a lot of weight since his arrest.
Rights advocates said it was common for mainland authorities to use economic crimes as a pretext to crack down on activists and their relatives.
Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic and former university lecturer involved in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement in 1989, was jailed for 11 years for co-drafting Charter 08, a manifesto that called for political reform and respect of citizens' rights.