BEIJING -- A nephew of the dissident Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Friday for assaulting and injuring a government official who broke into the family's home in April during a frenzied search for Mr. Chen, according to relatives.
The nephew, Chen Kegui, 33, was convicted after a brief closed-door trial in Shandong Province, not far from the farmhouse where paid thugs kept his uncle, a self-taught human rights lawyer who is blind, illegally confined for 18 months along with his wife, and at times, their young daughter.
Details of their detention, which included round-the-clock surveillance and violence, drew international condemnation and ultimately proved embarrassing to China after Mr. Chen eluded his captors and found sanctuary inside the United States Embassy in Beijing. After a tense diplomatic standoff in May, Chinese officials allowed Mr. Chen and his family to move to the United States.
Rights advocates criticized the prosecution of Mr. Chen's nephew, saying it was rife with irregularities and little more than a thinly concealed act of revenge. The younger Mr. Chen has been held incommunicado since his arrest in early May, and the authorities repeatedly rejected his family's legal defense team. Even his court-appointed lawyer said he was not informed of the trial's start date until shortly before it began, according to Mr. Chen's father, who was barred from entering the courtroom along with his wife. Prosecutors did not allow any defense witnesses.
The verdict, three years and three months in prison, was rendered with uncharacteristic speed.
"What an incredible farce," said Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at New York University who helped arrange a fellowship at the university for Chen Guangcheng.
The police in Yinan County arrested the nephew after he reportedly stabbed an official who was among several men who burst into the family's home in their search for the escaped Mr. Chen. Family members say the men, who were wearing street clothes, did not identify themselves. "Of course Kegui is innocent," his father, Chen Guangfu, said by telephone outside the courthouse. "He was only defending himself and his mother against thugs who broke into the house at midnight."
In its departure from established legal norms, the trial was similar to the one Yinan officials held in 2006 for Chen Guangcheng after he infuriated them by drawing attention to local coercive family-planning practices. At the time, neither Mr. Chen's lawyers nor his wife were allowed into the courtroom; his conviction came after a breezy two-hour hearing. His sentence of four years and three months stemmed from charges of "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic," even though he was under house arrest when a crowd of supporters staged a protest against his detention.
Ding Xikui, one of the lawyers hired to represent Chen Kegui, said he was disappointed by the verdict but not especially surprised. "The local police and courts have never had respect for due process," he said. "They violated the law almost every step of the case."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.