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China jails lawyer Gao Zhisheng for 3 more years, confirming status after long disappearance
BEIJING (AP) ' Chinese activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has not been seen in public for more than 20 months, has been sent back to jail for three years for breaking his probation, state media reported Friday.
The brief report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency marked the first official confirmation that Gao is still alive. Rights groups have repeatedly voiced concern about Gao's situation and criticism over the government silence surrounding his case.
Xinhua said Gao "had seriously violated probation rules for a number of times, which led to the court decision to withdraw the probation."
It did not say what violations Gao had committed, or could have committed because he was thought to have been in the custody of China's security forces since he was last seen in April 2010.
He was sentenced to three years in prison, with a five-year probation period, in December 2006 for inciting to overthrow state power. The probation would have expired next Thursday.
Calls to the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court and the Beijing High Court were not answered Friday.
Gao's brother said had not heard from the authorities on Gao's case, but Gao Zhiyi said he believed the end of the probation period may have been behind the move.
"Are they sending him to a proper prison? Which prison was he at before? Where were they hiding him?" he asked.
Gao said when he approached Beijing police in September to ask about his brother, one officer told him Gao Zhisheng was a "missing person and no one knows where he is."
Gao Zhiyi said he did not know what the latest notice from the court meant.
"Why were they hiding him for such a long time, what was his crime?" he said.
One of the most high-profile targets of the crackdown on rights lawyers over the past few years, Gao is a charismatic and pugnacious lawyer who represented religious dissenters and advocated constitutional reform.
Gao has drawn international attention, including from the United States, for the unusual length of his disappearance and for his earlier reports of torture he said he endured in detention.
His case was mentioned by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke last Saturday in a statement for International Human Rights Day.