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Prosecutor acts as both "judge and plaintiff" in television reporter's trial

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the lack of impartiality in TV reporter Li Min's trial by the Xinghualing district people's high court, in the northern province of Shanxi. She was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence on 4 August 2009 after pleading guilty to receiving 37,000 yuan (approx. 3,700 euros) from a man, Wu Xiaohua, whose businessman brother's conviction she had criticised in a report.

He Shusheng, the prosecutor responsible for convicting Wu Xiaohua's brother, is the chief prosecutor of the court that has just convicted Li Min. Aged 31, Li Min had a romantic relationship with Wu Xiaohua. Her jail sentence will be put into effect if she violates the terms of a four-year probation imposed by the court.

"This powerful prosecutor, He Shusheng, had himself been accused by Li Min of using his influence to convict Wu Xiaohua's brother, businessman Wu Xiaohui, in November 2008," Reporters Without Borders said. "He cannot be judge and plaintiff at the same time and must therefore be removed from the case."

"The doubts about the prosecutor's impartiality are reinforced by the fact that measures were taken to prevent journalists from other provinces from attending the 4 August hearing," the press freedom organisation added.

Li Min, who worked for the leading Chinese state television broadcaster, CCTV, went from Beijing with two colleagues to Shanxi to cover a dispute between Wu Xiaohui and another businessman, Hao Jianxiu. When prosecutor He Shusheng obtained Wu Xiaohui's conviction last November, Li Min tried to accuse the prosecutor of being in cahoots with Hao Jianxiu and of having financial interests in the dispute. CCTV ended up not broadcasting her report. Li Min was arrested on 12 December 2008 for allegedly taking a bribe from Wu Xiaohua to use her position as a journalist to influence the outcome of the investigation into his jailed brother. Li Min admitted to taking the money, but said it was just a gift from a man with whom she had a romantic relationship.

This is not the first time that a court where He Shusheng works as prosecutor has convicted a journalist for investigating his activities. According to a report by the state news agency Xinhua, while Jiancaoping district court prosecutor in 2003, he got the court to order the publishers of the magazine "Towards the WTO" to pay 455,000 yuan (approx. 45,000 euros) in damages for printing a list of 150 allegedly corrupt officials the previous year. He Shusheng was on the list.

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