Lawyers Criticize Handling of Li Qinghong Case07-31 13:32 Caijing
By staff reporter Tan Yifei
On July 23, 38-year-old businessman Li Qinghong was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of organizing and leading a gang in Guiyang, Guizhou Province.
At the same time, Li's father Li Chonggang, who was also on trial for his alleged involvement in the crime syndicate, was acquitted on all counts, as were five other defendants.
Some lawyers praised the outcome, stating that the verdict corrected a number of false accusations. Others have expressed disappointment in the result, arguing that the case against Li does not hold up in court, yet the majority of defendants were found guilty and given harsh sentences.
The case against Li goes back to 2008, when he was initially detained on charges of gambling. Over the past four years, the case has gradually escalated to include charges of organizing and leading a crime syndicate.
Li's trial has witnessed a series of twists and turns since 2008, from his original sentencing by the Guiyang City Intermediate People's Court and subsequent remanding of the case by the Guizhou Provincial Court, to Guiyang City Intermediate People's Court's sending of the case to Guiyang City Xiaohe District Court for re-trial. The case escalated in 2010 after the Guizhou Provincial Coordination Office to Fight Organized Crime convened a meeting between public security personnel, prosecutors, and the courts. The number of defendants accused of being involved in the crime syndicate grew from 17 to 57.
With the escalation of the case, the jurisdiction of the courts was reduced to the district level. Soon afterward, Li's defense attorney Zhou Ze of Beijing-based Wentian Law Firm made a public appeal to lawyers nationwide for help in Li's defense. Lawyers from around China flocked to Zhou's aide, but many of them were later dismissed by the defendants in bizarre fashion. Later, local counsel offered to replace them. On behalf of the defendants, all 88 defense attorneys pleaded not guilty. As a result of the lawyers' efforts, six defendants, including Li Chonggang, were acquitted by the court. In the broader scale of China's recent nationwide crackdown on organized crime, this is a rare outcome.
In 1997, along with the listing of the crime of organizing gangs into Criminal Law, China began a nationwide crackdown on organized crime.
The crackdown has since drawn widespread public attention, especially the large-scale effort launched by Chongqing Municipality in 2009. As part of massive anti-organized crime operations, the Chongqing Public Security Bureau dispatched 10,000 cross-regional personnel, established more than 300 task forces, and set up centers for interrogation of criminal suspects outside of normal detention facilities. Moreover, in November last year, Beijing and 11 other provinces and municipalities began carrying out a new round of coordinated crackdown activities.
However, effectively targeting organized crime while protecting legitimate personal rights and property rights of suspects, and keeping the crackdown from exceeding the limits of the law are issues that have provoked widespread debate among the legal community.
Some lawyers contend that the joint case handling model adopted during Li's trial, which involved close cooperation between police, prosecutors, and courts, vastly overstepped legal boundaries. During the re-trial, a number of defendants also claimed they were tortured into confessing to crimes.
Upon hearing the verdict on July 23, Li's defense immediately lodged an in-court appeal. The case will now return to where it started - the Guiyang City Intermediate People's Court. A new battle between the prosecution and defense may be right around the corner, and many are anxiously waiting to see which direction the case will go next.
Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2012-07-29/111979251.html
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