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Disabled Chinese rights lawyer freed, vows to sue police

Policemen remove tape from the entrance to the courthouse where disabled lawyer Ni Yulan, and her husband Dong Jiqin were being sentenced, i
Policemen remove tape from the entrance to the courthouse where disabled lawyer Ni Yulan, and her husband Dong Jiqin were being sentenced, i

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - A disabled Chinese rights lawyer whose imprisonment stirred international concern said on Sunday she had been released after serving her two and a half year sentence and pledged to sue the police as well as pursue redress for her case.

Ni Yulan, who is renowned for defending people evicted from their homes, was sentenced to two years and eight month in prison in April 2012 for causing a disturbance and fraud.

Activists contend the charges were trumped up in an effort to silence her. In July 2012, a Chinese court threw out the fraud charge, reducing her prison time by two months.

Authorities forced Ni, who is wheelchair-bound, and her husband, Dong Jiqin, to stay at a hotel in 2010 after their home was demolished in 2008. Ni had previously called it a "black jail" -- an informal detention site such as a hotel or government guesthouse used to hold protesters and petitioners without resorting to legal procedures.

During her trial, prosecutors alleged that Ni had "willfully occupied" the room that she was staying in.

Ni said she now plans to sue the Beijing public security bureau in the Xicheng district for holding her and her husband in the hotel and cutting off the water and electricity.

"It is useless to fear, since we're already deprived of our rights," Ni told Reuters by telephone. "If we don't fight for rights, we will just have to wait for our death."

"I want them to return my assets. They've torn down my home without giving any compensation, leaving us homeless."

Ni, 54, whose case is closely watched by the United States and the European Union, said her health was poor. The left side of Ni's neck is swollen and the family believes it is a suspected neck tumor.

"After the sentence, they've not allowed me to get my illness treated, so my physical condition has become worse," Ni said.

Beijing police could not be reached for comment.

Ni said she did not suffer any physical abuse due to the international awareness of her case and regular visits by diplomats from the European Union.

Security officers who held Ni in a detention center in Beijing in 2011 told her: "If you're dead, then that's good since all your assets will be returned to the state," according to Ni.

Ni's husband Dong was given two years in prison in April 2012 also for "causing a disturbance".

Ni's daughter, Dong Xuan, said about 10 supporters of Ni who greeted her mother outside the prison with a red banner were taken away by police.

Ni was among dozens of rights activists who were detained in early 2011 when fears of contagion from the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests triggered a crackdown by China's security apparatus.

She was left disabled by a police beating in 2002 after filming the forced demolition of a client's home and was then jailed. Ni was again jailed and beaten by police in 2008 for defending the rights of people evicted from their homes to make way for Beijing's 2008 Summer Olympics. She was later released in April 2010.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)

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