Official says gang trials fair, innocents safe

09:36, November 24, 2009      

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Gang suspects are escorted to court for a trial on Nov 6 in Chongqing. China Daily

CHONGQING: A local official has said the ongoing crackdown on gangs will not evolve into a "movement" that goes too far, reassuring people that trials will be "fair and just".

Liu Guanglei, Party secretary of the municipality's politics and law committee, said the crackdown on mafia-style gangs - which since June has seen the detention of more than 2,900 suspects, including some officials accused of protecting gangs - "will neither miscarry justice nor develop into a so-called anti-gang movement".

Liu's remarks addressed worries that some suspects may be wrongly convicted as gangsters during the high-profile campaign.

"The trials will be fair and just, which will stand the test of time," he added.

With some cases entering second trials, lawyers representing suspected gang members are facing mounting pressure from a public that supports the operation and firmly believes the suspects are guilty even before trials are concluded, Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend reported.

Zhou Litai, a local lawyer defending suspected gangster Li Zhigang, said that the "wave to sweep away gangs may escalate into a periodic movement that leads to wrongful convictions and undue harsh sentences".

Organized gangsters usually get harsher punishments than non-gangsters, even though they committed the same crimes such as robbery or arson.

Zhou told China Daily that he feels the pressure from the landslide support for the crackdown.

He also said a directive from the municipal high court, which asked that gang suspects not be bailed or have their sentences shortened, was not proper. Although admitting "the damage done by organized gangs is considerably large", he argued that "the rights of the defendants were not properly protected".

"I was not allowed to meet my client during police investigations or after the verdicts were read. All 29 lawyers defending the gang could not view or copy legal documents before the trial," he said.

However, Zhao Changqing, a law professor of Southwest University of Political Science and Law who led a team of lawyers to defend alleged gang leader Li Qiang last month, told China Daily the trial was sound.

The 75-year-old Zhao was one of the drafters of the country's Criminal Law in 1997.

"Limited rights of lawyers, for instance the unavailability to see their clients, is a normal practice that can be found in other kinds of trials as well," he said.

"As far as I have observed, the trial of Li Qiang (still pending a verdict) and his alleged gangsters was done rigorously, and I did not feel political pressure in the court," he said.

Alleged bosses of five gangs, who have had their first trials, confessed to crimes including murder and running underground gambling dens, but all denied charges of leading mafia-style gangs.

Two gangs, six members of which were sentenced to death, stood trial a second time earlier this month and are still waiting for verdicts.

Source:China Daily
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