China starts trial against Tibet environmentalist
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN,Associated Press Writer - 1 hour 47 minutes agoSend IM Story Print
BEIJING – A Tibetan environmentalist once praised by Chinese state media as a model philanthropist went on trial Tuesday in western China on what supporters say are politically motivated charges aimed at punishing him for his activism.
Karma Samdrup, 42, appeared gaunt and shrunken during Tuesday's opening session, his wife and lawyer said.
In his statement to the court, he said that during months of interrogation, officers beat him, deprived him of sleep for days on end, and drugged him with a substance that made his eyes and ears bleed, they said.
"If not for his voice, I would not have recognized him," wife Zhenga Cuomao told The Associated Press by phone from the courthouse in remote Yanqi county in the Xinjiang region adjoining Tibet.
Karma Samdrup was arrested Jan. 3 after speaking up for his two brothers, also environmental activists, who were detained after accusing local officials in eastern Tibet of poaching endangered species. He is accused of dealing in looted antiquities, charges dating from 1998 that were not pursued until this year.
Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang alleged numerous irregularities in the prosecution, including the use of new documents that removed evidence favorable to his client and added new testimony against him. He said the indictment had been translated from Chinese into a Tibetan dialect different from that spoken by Karma Samdrup, making it impossible for him to understand it.
Pu also questioned the legitimacy of prosecutor Kuang Ying, saying he believed she had been transferred from the Xinjiang regional prosecutor's office specifically for the case in violation of regulations.
Pu said Kuang denied violence had been used against Karma Samdrup. People who answered calls to the court and prosecutors' office refused to answer questions.
Beatings and torture are believed to be routine among Chinese police, despite official bans.
While Karma Samdrup, named philanthropist of the year in 2006 by state broadcaster CCTV, was not known to be politically outspoken, authorities in tightly controlled Tibet are extremely sensitive to any form of social activism and criticism of their work, either explicit or implied.
Karma Samdrup's younger brother, Chime Namgyal, is reportedly serving a 21-month sentence in a labor camp on the vague charge of harming national security. His older brother, Rinchen Samdrup, was scheduled to be tried on a similar charge on Thursday, but that date has since been postponed.
The cases come amid increased repression of Tibetan intellectuals, an echo of the massive security crackdown that followed rioting in the capital Lhasa in 2008 in which at least 22 people died.