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Hu Jia's trial "extremely troubling"; friends and colleagues reportedly detained to prevent their talking to media

(PEN/IFEX) - The following is an 18 March 2008 PEN American Center press release:

Trial Reinforces Fears Hu Jia Is Being Silenced for His Writings

New York, New York, March 18, 2008 - PEN American Center today called reports of the trial of prominent activist and writer Hu Jia "extremely troubling and discouraging," saying the proceedings apparently did nothing but underscore the fact that Hu is being prosecuted for his writings and public statements in clear violation of Chinese and international law.

Hu Jia is a freelance journalist and blogger, and one of China's most visible and respected civil rights, environmental, and AIDS activists. He was arrested December 27, 2007 at his home in Beijing on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" after publishing a letter entitled "The Real China and the Olympics" and other pieces critical of the Chinese government. He was officially charged on January 30, 2008 by the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate, and this morning stood trial before the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. Reports indicate that his lawyers were given only 20 minutes to deliver a defense during the four-hour session and were prevented from responding or interjecting throughout the proceedings, and that the charges against him are based on six articles Hu published and two press interviews that he had given.

Although the trial was supposedly public, international observers and diplomats were reportedly barred from the courtroom, as were Hu's father and wife. A number of Hu's friends and colleagues were reportedly detained and moved to locations outside Beijing to prevent them from speaking to the media outside the courtroom, including Dr. Teng Biao, a lawyer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center with whom Hu had collaborated on "The Real China and the Olympics." Teng was detained an hour and a half before the trial began and held for more than eight hours.

"We are extremely concerned that Chinese authorities, for all their promises to improve human rights before the Olympics, would try a prominent dissident in a perfunctory hearing on charges that so clearly violate his right to freedom of expression," said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "We understand a verdict is due in the next week. The world will certainly be watching the outcome of this important case."

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world's oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on Hu Jia and the other 37 writers, journalists, and bloggers who are currently imprisoned in China, please see http://www.pen.org/china2008

Updates the Hu Jia case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91605

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