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China human rights lawyer Li Heping given suspended jail term

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Media captionThe BBC’s John Sudworth spoke to Li Heping’s wife shortly after he was taken away in 2015

One of China’s best-known human rights lawyers has been given a three-year suspended jail term for subverting state power.

Li Heping was sentenced in a closed-doors trial, Chinese state media said.

He has defended other prominent lawyers, including Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng, as well as practitioners of the banned Falun Gong movement.

Li was detained in 2015 as part of a wider government crackdown on dissent under President Xi Jinping.

The lawyer’s trial took place on 25 April in the Tianjin City Number Two Intermediate People’s Court, and concerned state secrets, the court said on its Weibo social media account.

‘Smear state organs’

His jail sentence has been suspended for four years, and he will be denied his political privileges, the court said.

The suspension means Li could be released imminently, although it is unclear whether has has been. His time spent in detention should also count towards his jail sentence.

However, Li’s wife, who lives in Beijing, told the BBC that she had briefly spoken to her husband over the phone on Friday, and he had asked her to come to the city of Tianjin where he is being held.

Wang Qiaoling said she was being monitored by plain clothes policemen and therefore did not want to travel to Tianjin.

Since 2008, Li had used social media and foreign media to “smear and attack state organs and the legal system”, the court said in its ruling.

It also said he had used foreign funds to “interfere in high-profile cases”, and colluded with several people “harbouring subversive ideas”, including lawyers and those “involved in illegal religious activities”.

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