An appeal court in Beijing has sentenced DW correspondent Gao Yu to five years in prison for betraying state secrets. Her lawyer, Mo Shaoping, talks to DW about the verdict and Gao Yu's future course of action.
DW: What is your opinion on the verdict against Gao Yu?
Mo Shaoping: We had called for Gao Yu's acquittal, as we believed that the evidence against her was flawed. The appeal court in Beijing has now revised the earlier judgment and my client has been sentenced to five years in prison instead of seven. It is still a better result for us.
How has the court justified the lesser sentence?
The judgment says that Gao Yu had confessed to her offense and pleaded guilty during the appeal process, and that gave the court the legal provision to mitigate the sentence.
Are you satisfied with the reasoning?
I can only say this is a "plea bargaining à la Chinese." Given that China's code of criminal procedure doesn't really allow plea bargaining, I therefore call it plea bargaining "with Chinese characteristics."
Gao Yu is said to have passed the so-called Document no. 9 to foreign institutions. The alleged recipient of the document is the United States. However, the Chinese-language Mirror Media Group denied in a written statement that the document published by them came from Gao Yu. Why didn't the court take this into consideration?
The court is of the view that both the written and video statements made by He Ping, the manager of Mirror Media Group, were not legalized by Chinese diplomatic institutions. This is why we lodged an appeal against this judgment. His witness statements had, in fact, been both certified and notarized in the US.
However, for well-known reasons, the Chinese Embassy in the US refused to legalize and apostille the notarized certification. There was a legal flaw in the way the evidence was presented. Nevertheless, the court, the state prosecutor and the investigating authorities are bound to collect evidence which could not only incriminate but also exonerate a defendant.
The statements made by He are proof that Gao Yu is innocent. The judicial authorities should have contacted our witness ex officio in order to verify his statements.
How did Gao Yu react to the court's decision?
She must have expected such an outcome.
The ruling is final. In your view, what are the chances of 71-year-old Gao Yu being released prematurely for medical treatment given her poor state of health?
We are working on it. Now that the final verdict has been passed - and before the convict is taken to prison - the court can commute the jail sentence into house arrest or even open prison for health-related reasons. This decision must be made by the trial court. We hope for the best.