Saturday, April 05, 2008


A Chinese businessman sentenced to death for spying for a Taiwanese organisation did not receive a fair trial, his daughter says. In a rare interview, Ran Chen tells the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing she fears her father, Wo Weihan, could have been forced to confess while he was kept isolated from the outside world.
Wo Weihan was convicted of several espionage charges, including passing on information about a senior Chinese leader's health.
The 59-year-old, who pleaded not guilty, is currently waiting for China's Supreme Court to confirm the death sentence, his daughter says.
Ran Chen has decided to speak out publicly because she wants to raise awareness about her father's case.
"I believe in his innocence, but it is up to a just and transparent legal system to decide his innocence or guilt," she says.
"In my opinion, he has not received a fair trial."

Wo, who ran a medical research company in Beijing, was arrested in January 2005, according to court documents.
These say he spied for an organisation called The Grand Alliance for the Reunification of China under the Three Principles of the People between 1989 and 2003.
This group is under the auspices of Taiwan's new ruling party, the Kuomintang, according to the party's official website.
Taiwan is an island that China claims as its own, and there is continued tension between the two.
According to the court documents, Wo was accused of copying information from Chinese military magazines and passing it on to the Taiwanese group.
He was also accused of passing on night-vision equipment and information on a leader's health, as well as recruiting other agents on the mainland.
The court says he was paid more than $400,000 for helping the Taiwanese group.
Despite the serious nature of the charges, Wo's daughter says the Chinese prosecution did not provided sufficient proof of guilt.
For example, she said no real evidence had been presented about the information her father was supposed to have passed on about the leader's health - top secret information in China.

Ran Chen is not alone in her concern about China's interrogation methods.
The court papers, issued by Beijing Supreme Court, say only that Wo "could have chatted about a leader's health situation".
Ms Chen, who is now an Austrian citizen, says one of the main pieces of evidence used against her father was his confession, which he later retracted.
"I am worried that he might have been put under pressure because he was interrogated for a whole year without legal representation and no access to his family or the outside world," she says.

The 30-year-old has not been able to visit her father since he was arrested.
Amnesty International China maintains such secrecy about these cases that her father's lawyer cannot even legally reveal details about the case to Ms Chen.
The daughter is not the only one concerned about the methods used by China during its interrogation of criminal suspects.
Human rights group Amnesty International made the same point earlier this year when it called on China to abolish the death penalty.
"There are regular reports of what are believed to be miscarriages of justice after hasty and unfair trials and widespread use of torture to extract confessions," it said.
China does not reveal how many people it executes each year, but it appears concerned about possible miscarriages of justice.
Last year, it introduced new rules that require every death sentence to be approved by China's Supreme Court.
In 2007, that court rejected 15% of all death sentences citing illegal procedures, lack of evidence and unclear facts.
That same court is now deliberating Wo's case.
No-one answered the telephone when the BBC contacted the court to find out when a decision will be reached.
Ms Chen can do nothing but wait and hope.



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