BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court on Friday sentenced a veteran democracy activist to nine years' imprisonment for inciting subversion, in what appears to be the most severe punishment handed down in a crackdown on dissent this year.
Rights activist Chen Wei was convicted of incitement to subversion over four essays he wrote and published online, said his one of his lawyers, Liang Xiaojun.
Chen was detained in February amid an expansive government crackdown in response to anonymous online calls urging Chinese to imitate protests in North Africa and the Middle East.
Liang said the trial at a court in the city of Suining in southwestern China lasted about two and a half hours and that the sentence was handed down 30 minutes after the trial concluded.
"We pleaded not guilty. He only wrote a few essays. We presented a full defense of the case, but we were interrupted often, and none of what we said was accepted by the court," Liang said.
Liang said that after the sentence was handed down, Chen said: "I protest, I am innocent. The governance of democracy must win, autocracy must die."
The sentence given to Chen, 42, appears to be the harshest penalty handed down in relation to this year's crackdown. Beijing activist Wang Lihong, who was detained in March was sentenced to nine months in jail in September for staging a protest on behalf of other activists.
Chen's wife Wang Xiaoyan decried the punishment.
"He is innocent and the punishment was too harsh. The court did not allow him to defend himself and his freedom of speech was completely deprived of," Wang said by phone. "What's wrong about a person freely expressing his ideas?"