A court in China has sentenced the brother-in-law of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison.

The court in suburban Beijing issued the sentence in a brief hearing on Sunday after finding Liu Hui guilty of fraud in a real estate dispute, lawyer Shang Baojun said.

"This is damaging to my whole family," said Liu's sister and the wife of the imprisoned Nobel laureate, Liu Xia, who was allowed to leave the Beijing apartment where she has been confined to attend the hearing.

Weeping, she criticised the authorities for being unscrupulous in persecuting the family.

"How can they give an 11-year sentence? That does not stand. I do not know perhaps this country has gone mad, or do they hate us so much?" she said.

Family members and their supporters have said the prosecution of Liu Hui is meant as further punishment of the Nobel laureate's family and is intended to intimidate other political activists.

The 11-year sentence for Liu Hui matches the 11 years Liu Xiaobo is currently serving for authoring a programmatic call for democratic reforms.

Fraud is usually punishable by up to 10 years in jail, though judges, who answer to the ruling Communist Party, have discretion to issue longer terms for egregious cases.

Source: Agencies