A Chinese activist rendered disabled by prior police treatment has been sentenced to a jail term of two years and eight months on charges of fraud and provoking trouble.

Ni Yulan was sentenced by a Beijing court on Tuesday. Ni's husband, Dong Jiqin, was also given a two-year jail term.

Husband and wife were arrested last year in a crackdown to deter popular uprisings, that China feared could resemble the ones in many Arab states.

Ni was convicted of causing a disturbance at a hotel where they had been detained by police. The court said the couple failed to pay 69,972 yuan ($11,100) in hotel bills between June 2010 and April 2011.

Ni was also convicted of posing as a lawyer and receiving 5,000 yuan through deceit ($795).

The EU issued a statement in front of the court Tuesday saying it was "deeply concerned" about Ni's sentence and that because of her poor health she should be released immediately.

"The European Union is preoccupied with the deterioration of the situation for human rights defenders in China and will continue to follow these cases attentively,'' the statement read.

Heavy security

The sentencing took place under heavy security. The access road to the courthouse was cordoned off with a temporary checkpoint.

Dozens of police officers and neighbourhood watch members patrolled outside the courthouse and kept an eye on foreign journalists and diplomats from the United States and Europe.

Ni's daughter, Dong Xuan, said she was allowed in the court but was later taken away and briefly detained by police.

Ni and her supporters deny the charges and say she is being punished for her years of activism, especially her advocacy for people forced from their homes to make way for the fast-paced real-estate development that remade Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

Ni has been jailed twice before. In a June 2010 interview with the Associated Press news agency, she described abuse she suffered at the hands of police, saying that guards had beaten her, insulted her and urinated on her face.

While in detention in 2002, police pinned her down and kicked her knees until she was unable to walk, she said.

While serving her second prison term, Ni said she was deprived of her crutches and had to crawl up and down five stories and across the prison yard every day for months.

Source: Agencies