China court gives dissident 12-year sentence: Lawyer

BEIJING - A Chinese court Monday sentenced a prominent dissident who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy demonstrations to 12 years in prison for contract fraud, a lawyer said.

A court in the central province of Sichuan handed down the sentence on Li Bifeng, his lawyer Ma Xiaopeng told AFP.

Li spent five years in prison for his involvement in the 1989 protests, and was later given a seven-year prison sentence for writing an open letter about a protest by disgruntled workers.

"The court didn't respond to our query about the value of the loss caused by the alleged fraud." Ma said of the trial. "It's a clear mistake by the court," he said, describing it as a flawed hearing.

Ma said that he would appeal the verdict on behalf of Li, 48.

Li is a friend of Liao Yiwu, a dissident writer who fled to Germany last year. Liao slipped across the border with Vietnam after authorities had 17 times refused him permission to leave China.

Li was detained by police two months after Liao's escape, Radio Free Asia reported last year. It quoted dissidents as saying the detention was a punishment for his continued activities.

The Hongxian People's Court at Suining city in Sichuan province could not immediately be reached for comment.

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