Man urges Chinese judge to reject torture-tainted evidence

FILE - This undated, file photo released by Chongyi Feng shows Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang. The Chinese Australian writer tried in Beijing for alleged espionage said he pleaded to a judge to reject evidence of what he had said while being tortured by interrogators. Yang faced a closed trial on Thursday. The court deferred its verdict to a later date.(Chongyi Feng via AP, File)
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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Chinese Australian writer tried in Beijing for alleged espionage said he pleaded to a judge to reject evidence of what he had said while being tortured by interrogators.

Yang Hengjun faced a closed trial last Thursday and the court deferred its verdict to a later date.

The Australian government on Friday labeled his incarceration since he arrived in China in January 2019 arbitrary detention.

The Associated Press on Monday saw the crime novelist and blogger’s account of the legal proceedings circulated among his supporters over the weekend.

Yang said he had a meeting with his trial judge three days before his one-day trial. The judge refused his request to submit evidence and call witnesses during the trial, but agreed to include almost 100 pages of defense documents in his case file.

“I made a plea to the judge to exclude my interrogation records from the court proceedings,” Yang said.

“It’s illegal. Torture. They had hidden camera records,” Yang added.

Yang does not say how the judge responded to his request.

Chinese Criminal Procedure Law prohibits confessions forced by torture or threats.

The prosecution case, “according to legal facts, is groundless,” Yang said.

Yang said he was “tired and confused” during the hearing and “didn’t have the sprit to speak enough.”

He estimated he spoke for less than five minutes in his own defense, but said the hearing “gave me a sense that things are OK.”

“The interrogations I had been subjected to, where I was told I had to confess, and the treatment I received for the first one-and-a-half years was (sic) much worse,” Yang said.

Chinese authorities have not released any details of the charges against Yang, who reportedly formerly worked for China’s Ministry of State Security as an intelligence agent.

Yang told his supporters at the weekend: “I served China when I was young, even secretly.”

Yang has denied the accusation against him, and while a conviction is virtually certain, it isn’t clear when the verdict will be handed down. The espionage charge carries penalties ranging from three years in prison to the death penalty.

The trial comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the countries, brought on by Chinese retaliation against Australian legislation against foreign involvement in its domestic politics, the exclusion of telecommunications giant Huawei from its 5G phone network, and calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus that was first detected in China in late 2019.

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