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China appeals court orders retrial of rights activist

[JURIST] A Chinese intermediate appellate court has overturned and remanded back to the trial court the case of Chen Guangcheng [HRW case timeline], a blind Chinese human rights legal activist who was sentenced [JURIST report] in August to four years and three months in prison for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." Chen's lawyers argued that the punishment was not proportionate to the crime, and his supporters claim the charges were fabricated and Chen was actually arrested for reporting complaints of government-mandated abortions and forced sterilizations [TIME feature] to comply with the country's one-child policy.

Chen was tried without the assistance of his team of prominent Chinese lawyers, who were arrested during the trial [JURIST report] on charges of stealing a wallet. Human rights activists in China [JURIST news archive] characterize Chen's prosecution as indicative of China's uncompromising stance against public dissent. The appeals court decision to reverse and remand the case caught many by surprise, though the trial court that will re-hear the case is not obligated to acquit Chen on the charges. Reuters has more.

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