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December 31, 2009

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Lawyer faces charges of perjury

A LAWYER who defended a suspected mob boss stood trial yesterday in southwest China's Chongqing City for allegedly advising his client to commit perjury as a way to receive lenient treatment.

Li Zhuang, 48, representing Gong Gangmo, was reported to have promised him lighter punishment if he lied about elements of his confession.

Li's lawyer Gao Zicheng, who represented Shanghai's jailed former Party chief Chen Liangyu in his corruption case, said Li would plead not guilty in a trial expected to last eight days. All eight witnesses, including Gong who reported his allegations to police, had refused to testify in court, Gao said.

Gao said it was strange that the court rushed the case to trial just a day after prosecutors filed suit. He said it left him little time to prepare his client's defense.

Chen Jiuhong, deputy head of Chongqing Jiangbei District Prosecutors, told China Youth Daily they had no material evidence that Li had advised his client to lie. The arrest of Li was based on Gong's allegations, he said.

Gong told China Central Television that he sensed Li Zhuang was telling him to lie about being tortured to induce a confession as he was "winking at him" during meetings.

Gao countered that blinking hardly constituted evidence against Li.

Gao said Li had not presented any evidence related to Gong's case to a court before he was detained by police.

It was thus "groundless" to arrest him for perjury.

Li's arrest has attracted widespread public attention as he was the first lawyer to be brought down in Chongqing's crackdown on criminal rings.

More than 20 lawyers have signed and handed a public letter to the court pleading for it to transfer the case to a court outside Chongqing to guarantee impartiality.

Gong said Li taught him "tricks" to escape conviction, including saying his initial confession was prompted by being tortured while under interrogation.

Gong said the Beijing-based lawyer asked him for 1.5 million yuan (US$219,771) and claimed he could save the guilty from prison terms.


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