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Beijing airport bomber gets six-year sentence

Wheelchair-bound man drew criticism and sympathy by detonating bomb to draw attention to alleged beating by officials.

Last Modified: 15 Oct 2013 06:58
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Ji, who was brought to court in an ambulance, has been paralysed since a 2005 beating in Dongguan [Reuters]

A partly paralysed man who had set off a bomb inside Beijing's airport in hopes of winning redress over an alleged beating by public officials has been given a six-year prison sentence.

Lawyers and relatives of Ji Zhongxing were on hand for Tuesday's verdict and sentence. The court did not say whether he was among the nearly 40 people in attendance.

Ji, a former motorcycle taxi driver from the eastern city of Heze in Shandong province, went on trial last month for endangering public safety with a homemade bomb. The 33-year-old had faced up to 10 years in prison.

He was the only person injured in the July 20 explosion, losing a hand.

Liu Xiaoyuan, Ji's lawyer, said his client had hoped to attract police so he could be detained and discuss his beating in 2005 by city security guards in the southern city of Dongguan.

Ji had denied exploding the bomb deliberately, claiming it went off accidently as he was shifting it from one hand to the other.

Condemnation and sympathy

The attack drew widespread condemnation but also sympathy from many Chinese who said it shows the government ignores the powerless and marginalised.

The Beijing Chaoyang District Court said on its microblog that the explosion inside the crowded airport and Ji's transporting of the device by public bus from Shandong constituted a major threat to public safety.

But it said it decided on a lighter sentence because Ji had warned onlookers that he had a bomb and had cooperated with prosecutors.

Response to the verdict online was generally positive, although some questioned whether the government was sincere in investigating Ji's earlier beating.

Xu Xin, a legal commentator, wrote in his verified account on the Twitter-like Weibo that Ji's sentence was relatively light.

"Well, that's that. At least in prison, his life will have some sort of order," Xu wrote.

Redress for grievances

Gong Liegang, a lawyer based in Kunming, the capital of southwestern Yunnan province, called the sentence "abnormally harsh" and described Ji as "a vulnerable person" who had no other way to protect his rights.

Chinese unable to win redress for grievances have in the past resorted to extreme measures, including bombings, but such incidents are rare because of tight state security.

Ji had been petitioning Chinese authorities for years after the 2005 attack, which left him paralysed from the waist down and more than $16,000 in debt, according to his elder brother Ji Zhongji.

Ji's sentence comes weeks after the execution of a Chinese kebab vendor, who was convicted of killing two city officials, prompted public criticism of a justice system said to punish the poor harshly while letting the rich and powerful off more lightly.

Ji's protest in July had come just days after security workers apparently beat to death a watermelon vendor in southern Hunan province in a dispute over where he could sell his fruit.

Both cases have drawn public criticism about official abuse of power.

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