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Review ordered for jailed defamation man

THE case of a man jailed for defaming a local government is being reviewed.

The Erdos Intermediate People's Court is reviewing the case on the instructions of its chief judge, court officials told Xinhua news agency yesterday.

The review comes after media reported that Wu Baoquan, 39, was sentenced to two years imprisonment in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for publishing stories online about the Erdos city government misusing farm land.

He has already served one year of his sentence.

The case attracted public attention when a man involved in a similar case in Henan Province received compensation and a public apology from the government last week. A defamation case against him was also withdrawn.

Wu, who ran a company in Qingdao City, a costal city in Shandong Province, published an online story on September 7, 2007 after learning from his friend Kang Shulin that the government of Kang's hometown, Erdos City's suburban Habagexi Village and Zhaizita Village, had taken over farm land for development.

In the online story, Wang said the government had bought about 50,000 mu (33,350,000 square meters) of land from local farmers for 250 yuan (US$36.61) per mu, a price much lower than the national standard of 10,000 yuan per mu.

It then built government buildings on some of the land and auctioned the remaining land for up to 820,000 yuan per mu.

The government did not honor its promise of offering farm land and other facilities as compensation to the farmers.

After petitioning the local government in vain, hundreds of angry villagers petitioned the Erdos City government on August 6, 2007.

But instead of listening to their complaints, the government dispatched police to disperse the crowd. Police detained more than 20 petitioners and several elderly women were injured and hospitalized in the fracas, Wu wrote.

On September 16, police from Erdos seized Wu in Qingdao and detained him for 10 days for defamation.

On the following day his friend, Kang, was also detained for 10 days.

After being released, Wu visited the villages to carry out research first hand. He published another three reports on Websites from October to November 2007.

The reports, however, did not attract a great deal of attention - only drawing 1,900 hits up to April 17, 2008, the Southern Metropolis Daily report said.

But they did attract the local police.

On April 27, Wu was arrested again when he was on business in Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning Province.

He was sentenced to one year in jail for defamation on October 17, 2008 by the Dongsheng District People's Court.

Wu appealed but was then sentenced to two years in jail on February 26, 2009 by the court, a verdict which was supported by the Erdos Intermediate People's Court.

In response to legal experts who said the Erdos court had invented a crime of "defaming the government" in Wu's case, court officials argued that Wu was charged with defaming national persons, rather than the government, the Xinhua report said.

They said the local police arrested Wu because he could have been involved in the petitions from a personal interest.

The police then handed the case over to the prosecutors who later charged him with the crime of defamation.

Wu received a heavier penalty in the second verdict because he showed no regret for his actions during the trial and continued encouraging the villagers to petition, court officials told Xinhua.


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