Ni Yulan, a Chinese lawyer and activist who campaigned for the rights of people evicted from their homes as Beijing prepared for the 2008 Olympics, went on trial in the capital today.
According to the Associated Press, she and her husband, Dong Jiqin, are accused of fraud, libel, and causing a disturbance at a hotel where they had been detained by police.
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The couple's lawyer, Cheng Hai, told waiting reporters that both Ni and Dong had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and that no verdict had yet been reached. Police officers then escorted Cheng from the courthouse, according to Agence France Presse, which reported that the hearing took place amid heavy security and was closed to the public.
Ni, 51, appeared in court lying on a bed and breathing through an oxygen machine, according to her daughter, Dong Xuan, who testified at the hearing. It was the first time she had seen her parents since their arrest in April, she said:
"Seeing my mother lying on that bed, it made my heart ache. [...] This is definitely not a normal trial procedure, so I feel the risk of conviction is high."
Ni says her health problems are due to abuse she suffered at the hands of police during previous arrests. In an interview with the AP last year, she claimed officers had urinated on her, beaten her, and kicked her knees to the point where she can no longer walk.
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She has already served two jail terms and been banned from working as a lawyer, but she and her husband continued to advise people whose land has been seized by the government, according to the BBC. Her own home was requisitioned and demolished by Beijing authorities in 2002, after which she lived for a while in a tent in a public park.
Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin are the third and fourth dissidents to be tried in China this week. Chen Xi, a veteran activist who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, was jailed for 10 years for "subversion," while writer Chen Wei received nine years for calling for reform of China's one-party system.
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