Reporters Without Borders is delighted that Duan Lei, a blogger who had been held in the northeastern province of Shandong for the past five months on charges of defamation and “disturbing the social order”, was released by prosecutors this afternoon for lack of evidence.
The Xinhua news agency reported that his family was nonetheless required to publicly apologise for the allegations about a local official that he made in a blog entry.
A lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, said Duan had already been freed and was back at home with his family. However, it seems that he will not be compensated for the months he spent in prison.
Blogger tried on charge of “disturbing social order” for criticising party official
Reporters Without Borders calls for the acquittal of Duan Lei, a blogger based in the district of Cao, in the northeastern province of Shandong, who is being tried behind closed doors on a charge of defamation and “disturbing the social order” for reporting that local Communist Party secretary Guo Feng had more cars than his position permits. Duan has been detained since 25 February.
“Defamation only exists when a mendacious and insulting allegation is made that harms a person’s reputation, but in this case the facts were not invented,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Furthermore, Duan’s post was read by fewer than 100 Internet users so he could hardly have ‘disturbed social order’. We are also shocked that the media were barred from the courtroom. This secrecy is a sign of how nervous the local authorities are.”
Duan’s allegations about party secretary Guo Feng’s cars were posted on blogs created on the http://www.tianya.cn, http://blog.sina.com.cn/ and http://tieba.baidu.com/ platforms. In all, they appeared on a total of six websites but were read by only 79 people. Guo responded that he had been left an additional car by his predecessor.
After being held without charge for more than a month, Duan was charged on 4 April with defamation. Then, on 3 July, the Cao district prosecutor’s office also charged him with “"having a harmful influence and disturbing the social order.”
Over lawyer Li Yong’s angry objections, the news media and Duan’s family were barred from the courtroom during the most recent hearing on 17 July on the grounds that “personal privacy” was involved.
The Xinhua and China Daily news websites have wrongly reported that Duan accused Guo of taking bribes and accused his son, a nightclub manager, of organising prostitution and dealing in drugs.