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Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Xia Lin sentenced to 12 years’ jail for fraud

A prominent Chinese rights lawyer who defended high-profile politically sensitive cases has been sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for fraud, according to his lawyer.

Xia Lin, 46, was found guilty of fraud involving 4.8 million yuan (HK$5.6 million) by the Beijing No 2 Intermediate Court on Thursday.

Xia was taken away by police in the middle of a case while defending rights activist Guo Yushan in November 2014. He had also defended dissident artist Ai Weiwei, Sichuan earthquake rights activist Tan Zuoren, rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and Deng Yujiao, a Hubei waitress who killed a government official in self-defence during a sexual assault in a case that made national headlines.

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It is unclear whether the charges against Xia had anything to do with the cases he defended, but the court verdict made no mention of any of the politically sensitive cases mentioned above.

It is not uncommon for authorities to use non-political charges against activists. Ai Weiwei, for instance, was detained for more than two months for suspected tax evasion in 2010. Liu Hui, the brother in-law of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in jail for fraud in 2013. Liu Hui’s case was dropped by prosecutors who cited insufficient evidence in 2012, but was picked up again months after Liu Xia gave interviews to oversea media.