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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 14:30 GMT
Chinese activist's retrial held
Undated photo of Chen Guangcheng
Rights groups say Mr Chen did not get a fair first trial
The retrial of a blind Chinese activist has ended with one of the defence lawyers walking out in protest at key witnesses going missing.

Chen Guangcheng was found guilty of public order offences in August, and sentenced to four years in prison.

A higher court this month threw out the verdict, citing inadequate evidence.

Mr Chen's supporters say the charges against him are politically motivated, because he has exposed abuses of the Chinese government's one-child policy.

A verdict in this latest trial could come as soon as this week.

'Missing or kidnapped'

The retrial began behind closed doors in Yinan County People's Court.

Witnesses said security was tight in and around the courtroom, and a group of people who had come to support Mr Chen were reportedly ordered to leave.

Defence lawyer Li Jinsong walked out midway through proceedings after the court refused a request to delay the trial.

He said all the important witnesses were "missing or had been kidnapped".

"I left the court in protest at the serious trampling of respect for the law," Mr Li said.

Another lawyer, Teng Biao, was reportedly taken away by police for four hours of questioning after he was refused entry into the court.

The hearing continued with another of Mr Chen's lawyers, Li Fangping, who expressed optimism that his client would be found not guilty.

"Our defence certainly had a positive impact on the court officials - that was our goal," he told the AFP news agency by telephone.

"The prosecution maintained the original charges but their evidence was contradictory, so I think we can influence the verdict of the court".

Violations

Chen Guangcheng was originally sentenced to four years and three months in jail for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic".

The official Xinhua news agency reported that he had launched an attack on government offices and police cars in Yinan County, because he was upset with workers carrying out poverty relief programmes.

But Mr Chen's supporters said that local officials had fabricated these charges in order to punish him for exposing violations of China's one-child policy.

Mr Chen had accused local health workers in Linyi city, in Shandong province, of illegally forcing hundreds of people to have late-term abortions or sterilisations.

China brought in its one-child policy 27 years ago, in a drive to curb population growth, but forced sterilisation and abortion are prohibited.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Chen Guangcheng's lawyer talks about the case



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