Chinese lawyer who reported forced abortions put on trial

 A blind lawyer who exposed a campaign of forced sterilizations and abortions by officials in the Chinese town of Linyi, has been put on trial this week, after nearly a year under house arrest without charge. His wife is also under arrest. Last year, Chen Guangcheng, 35, wrote a report with others, in which he revealed that family planning officials were using violent methods to enforce the one child policy. The shocking report revealed that tens of thousands of people with an "illegal" number of children, had been forced to have late-term abortions, and many have had forced sterilisations. It contains harrowing accounts of husbands arrested while their wives, some eight months pregnant, were given forced abortions Following the release of the report China's central government launched an investigation, and a small number of officials were punished. But Chen appears to have fallen foul of local authorities and has been under arrest since the report was released. Yinan county court is prosecuting him on what human rights campaigners say are trumped-up charges. The lawyer, who has been blind since childhood, is accused of "destroying public property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic." Chen is well known both in China and abroad. Time magazine has put him on its list of 2006's Top 100 people who shape our world. Civil rights campaigners around the world have called on Beijing to free him and investigate claims that he was tortured in custody. Chen became blind as a child. He sat in on law classes but was not allowed to graduate because of his disability. Like many so-called 'barefoot lawyers' n China, he uses his skills to advise and represent his fellow villagers. His Beijing lawyers - no local lawyer would take on his case - say they have been prevented from gathering evidence or talking to witnesses, some of whom have also been locked up. Members of the legal team have received death threats, and been beaten up and intimidated by thugs as they tried to enter Chen's home village of Dongshigu.

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