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Probe into court video tape claim

A HIGHER-LEVEL court in central China's Hubei Province will investigate a man's claim that he was detained earlier this month for videotaping local officials enforcing a court order.

The Xiangfan City Intermediate People's Court announced the investigation yesterday on its Website, today's Chonqing Morning Post reported.

The investigation was launched after five home owners in the Caifu residential quarters in Xiangfan's Zaoyang City appealed for a review of their detainment on June 12 by the local Zaoyang court, the report said.

The five were detained for 15 years for "disrupting public service." One of them, Ma Yaojun, was also charged with "videotaping officials at law-enforcement work."

The five were released the next morning because the court said they showed regret.

More than 100 staff with Zaoyang's court, police and law-enforcement officers arrived at the residential quarters on June 12 to enforce the execution of a court order.

The order supported a real estate company's construction work in the quarters and ordered 13 home owners not to disrupt the construction.

The officers were met by residents who blocked the entrance to the quarters and refused to let the developer's machinery in, according to Wang Zhiyong, an official with the Zaoyang court.

One of the residents, Ma, borrowed a camera from another home owner, Yang Yanlin, to videotape the officials dispersing the crowd.

Seeing that, four police officers rushed over and snatched the camera and detained Ma. Yang was also detained, Wang said.

Five residents were detained for 15 days for "disrupting the court's public activities."

It is illegal to videotape court activities, according to Tian Yubing, the Zaoyang court's director. He said law-enforcement actions, as an extension of courtroom activities, should not be videotaped.

But he agreed the charge of "disrupting public activities" should only be enforced by law after violence, physical attacks, or verbal abuse against officials - none of which Ma used.

Law experts disagreed with Wang's explanation.

"It's baseless as there is not a law banning videotaping law-enforcement activities in China," said Professor Zhou Zezhhen with China Youth University for Political Sciences.

Videotaping does not result in the disruption of public service, he added.

Before being released, each of the five were fined 10,000 yuan (US$14,634) by the court, the home owners said.

But none had really paid the fine as the court officials told them the fines were a show for the developer, according to Yang.


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