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China lawyer convicted in mafia case: court official

BEIJING, Jan 8 (AFP) - The lawyer for an alleged mob boss in southwest China was jailed Friday for fabricating evidence in a massive trial that state media said had underscored major flaws in the country's judicial system.

A court in Chongqing sentenced Li Zhuang to 30 months in prison for faking evidence in his defence of Gong Gangmo, who is currently standing trial as part of a massive crackdown on local organised crime, a court official told AFP.

During his December 30 trial, Li denied charges he urged Gong to testify that police had tortured him into confessing to his alleged crimes, which include murder and trafficking drugs and weapons, state media said.

Gong has since denied he was tortured and claimed that Li, a Beijing-based lawyer who has a record of defending alleged gangsters, demanded 30 million yuan (four million dollars) in fees for an acquittal, the China Daily reported.

Gong's trial started this week and is expected to last seven days.

On Thursday, Li's lawyer Gao Zicheng vowed to appeal the verdict if his client was found guilty, the China News Service said.

The lawyer was not immediately available for comment following the verdict.

So far, the crackdown on mafia crime in Chongqing has seen up to 200 officials investigated, including the former head of the city's judiciary and the deputy chief justice of the municipality's high court.

More than 1,500 people have been arrested, six people sentenced to death and scores of others given jail terms ranging up to life in prison for their involvement in the sprawling city's murky underworld.

Legal experts have warned that Li's conviction could discourage attorneys from representing those charged in connection with the Chongqing crackdown, creating a breakdown in the guarantee of due process, the China Daily reported.

The paper said hundreds of Chinese lawyers have complained about Li's arrest and trial, citing rampant police interference in defence preparations by refusing lawyers access to evidence and case documents.

Police have also violated the law by refusing lawyers private and immediate access to their clients, the paper said, adding that defendants had also been deprived of their legal rights.

"We need more laws detailing lawyers' rights of access to clients and evidence," Zhou Guangquan, deputy dean of the law school at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the paper.

MySinchew 2010.01.08



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