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Lawyers 'tried to influence verdicts'

Updated: 2015-07-13 05:26
By CAO YIN (China Daily)

Lawyers 'tried to influence verdicts'

File photo of Zhou Shifeng, attorney and director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which was suspected of making profits by illegally hiring protesters in an attempt to influence court decisions.

A group suspected of disturbing public order and making profits by illegally hiring protesters in an attempt to influence court decisions has been broken up, the top public security authority said.

The suspects include lawyers who acted as organizers, social media users who planned operations and people who posed as petitioners, the Ministry of Public Security said on Saturday.

The group, led by attorneys from Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, are accused of trying to create social conflict by using paid protesters, trying to influence public sentiment and spreading rumors, a statement from the ministry said.

The lawyers detained include Zhou Shifeng, the firm's director, and his colleagues Liu Sixin, Huang Liqun, Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang. Zhou is suspected of being involved in other suspected felonies being probed.

The lawyers allegedly organized more than 40 incidents across the country since July 2012. One involved a case in which a lawful police shooting at a railway station in Heilongjiang province was claimed to be a murder conspiracy, the ministry said.

Li Lebin, an officer in Qing'an, shot Xu Chunhe to death after Xu attacked him. Rumors spread online alleging that Li opened fire at Xu on the orders of an official because Xu was a petitioner.

The ministry said Zhai Yanmin, one of the suspects, had confirmed that the group of lawyers was responsible for the rumors.

Wu Gan, a popular social media user known for stirring up controversy, was asked to post messages and offered to pay 100,000 yuan ($16,100) for any video clips that captured the incident, it is alleged.

Zhai hired people who posed as petitioners to shout slogans and hold signs to support the lawyers involved in the case. One "petitioner", surnamed Li, said she received 600 yuan for carrying a sign, the ministry said.

Others filmed "mass incidents" and posted clips on overseas websites in an attempt to manipulate public opinion, it added.

Ruan Chuansheng, a Shanghai lawyer, said some lawyers used illegal measures to support their defense work. The attorneys association should enhance supervision and prevent some lawyers damaging the image of the whole profession, Ruan added.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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