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Police witness identity hidden

A WITNESS was able to present evidence at a public hearing in a local court while hiding his identity for the first time yesterday.

The drug-squad policeman delivered his testimony through a video link to the court with his face pixelated.

With little direct evidence and one of the defendants denying the charges, the policeman's evidence became crucial to yesterday's drug trade and trafficking trial.

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court decided to allow the officer to deliver his evidence anonymously and keep his identity hidden from criminals because of safety concerns.

The policeman said there had been a tip that somebody would be selling drugs in the Zhongya Hotel near the Shanghai Railway Station on December 21, 2007. When police arrived, one of the defendants, Wang Wenyong, was seen leaving a hotel room carrying a paper bag.

Wang dropped the bag while being chased by the officer. Police later found there was nearly 4.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, or "ice," in the bag, according to the officer. Another defendant, Chen Qing, was caught in the room.

Chen told police that Wang gave him the paper bag in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, three days earlier, and asked him to take it to Shanghai. Wang paid him 7,800 yuan (US$1,142).

"I suspected there were drugs in the bag. Otherwise Wang Wenyong wouldn't pay me so much and he sometimes offered me ice free of charge," Chen said in his confession. "Before I helped him transport drugs I had spent 2,000 yuan buying 7 grams of ice from Wang Wenyong."

Wang was charged with trading and transporting drugs and Chen was charged with transporting drugs.

But Wang said he hadn't taken the paper bag nor did he know there were drugs inside.

Chen said he didn't see Wang take the bag out of the room so the police officer became the only witness.

"The judges can learn more about the facts with the witness giving testimony and answering questions from prosecutors and the defendants' lawyers," said Wang Junmin, a law professor from the East China University of Political Science and Law. "At the same time, the security of the witnesses will also be protected with this system."

Delivering testimony anonymously will be used more in cases in which crucial witnesses can't face defendants and the public for various reasons, said Huang Xiangqing, deputy director of the court.

"In this way, witnesses can be separated from the intense atmosphere in the court and offer fair testimony," he said. The court expected the system will enable more witnesses to give testimony in person.

The court is to announce its verdict in the drugs case at a later date.


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