One of China's most prominent human rights activists was condemned today to 11 years in prison, prompting a furious backlash from domestic bloggers and international civil society groups.
Liu Xiaobo, the founder of the Charter 08 campaign for constitutional reform, was given the unusually harsh jail term on Christmas Day in an apparent attempt to minimise international attention.
The case has raised fears that other drafters of Charter 08 could also face retribution from the authorities.
Following a year in detention and a two-hour trial, it took the No 1 intermediate people's court in Beijing just 10 minutes to read out the 11-page sentence.
Liu was found guilty on Wednesday of subversion, the vaguely defined charge that Communist party leaders often use to imprison political opponents.
In a statement released by the state-controlled Xinhua news agency, the court said it had "strictly followed the legal procedures" and "fully protected Liu's litigation rights".
However, the author and academic had been detained without trial for a year. His wife, Liu Xia, was not allowed into an earlier hearing, nor were foreign diplomatic observers. Liu's lawyers have been warned not to discuss the case.
But the defence team said they were prepared to appeal against the verdict.
"We cannot accept this sentence because we have argued in court that Liu is innocent," said one of his lawyers, Mo Shaoping. His wife could not be reached as her mobile phone was suddenly out of order.
Amnesty International expressed outrage at the sentence, which it said was the harshest in 35 subversion cases since 2003.
"Liu Xiaobo's detention and trial shows the Chinese government will not tolerate Chinese citizens participating in discussions about their own form of government," said Sam Zarifi, director of the group's Asia pacific program.