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October 10, 2009

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Motorist wins right to fight illegal-cab fine

A DRIVER who was fined for being an illegal cabbie is alleging entrapment and said he was merely being a good samaritan by giving a ride to an apparently sick stranger.

A Shanghai court yesterday accepted a lawsuit by the driver against the Minhang District traffic authority, which fined him 10,000 yuan (US$1,465).

The driver, surnamed Zhang, and his lawyer, Hao Jinsong, moved for annulment of the fine imposed by the Minhang District People's Court.

Zhang claimed that the "sick hitchhiker" was hired by the Minhang District traffic law enforcement team to set traps for illegal taxi drivers.

He posted an audio clip on a BBS where a person claiming to be a staff member of the team backed up his claim. The audio clip has yet to be verified.

Zhang said in his first BBS post, which attracted widespread attention, that he met the "hitchhiker" who claimed to have stomach pain and pleaded for a ride on September 8.

When Zhang agreed, he said the stranger got into his vehicle and suddenly turned off the ignition and grabbed his keys after traveling a short distance.

Zhang said he was then dragged out of the car by men hiding nearby, had his driving license and car confiscated and was shown a penalty notice for operating an illegal taxi service.

Hao said Zhang had no intention of being an illegal cabbie as his client had a stable, high-paying job.

Zhang just wanted to help a person seemingly in distress and should be commended for his efforts, not prosecuted, Hao said.

Zhang was forced to give up his right to defend himself, or his car would not be returned, Hao said. "Traffic law enforcers acted illegally in depriving Zhang of his rights," Hao said.

Wu Runyuan, a spokesman for the Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement General Team, said yesterday that the administrative department would not respond to the lawsuit until it was heard by the Minhang court.

Previously, Minhang District traffic law officers, when answering questions from media representatives, said they had collected enough evidence to prove Zhang was operating an illegal taxi.

They said all correct legal procedures were performed before the fine was imposed.

Officials said Zhang talked about price during the short trip and this had been captured on video. This evidence would be presented in court.

Zhang isn't the first to file such a case.

Zhou Yang, who had a similar experience, lost his lawsuit bid last year buthad his 10,000-yuan fine reimbursed after mediation by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court.


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