UN panel calls for Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's release

A protester holds an image of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo outside of the Chinese Embassy in Oslo December 9, 2010 Liu Xiaobo was a key figure in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989

A United Nations panel of independent legal experts has called for the immediate release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo from prison in China.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says China should also free the Nobel Laureate's wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest.

It says both should be entitled to compensation.

The judgements were made public by the US-based human rights group Freedom Now, which represents the couple.

Mr Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail in December 2009 for inciting the subversion of state power.

He was detained the previous year, just before the publication of Charter 08, a political manifesto that he helped draft, which calls for political change in China.

'Unjustified'

Following an investigation, the working group said the Chinese government had failed to justify its imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo.

It found fault with both his detention and his trial, during which he had just 14 minutes to defend himself.

"The trial was organised in a way which constitutes a breach of fairness," read the judgement on the activist's case.

The UN working group says the activist should be released immediately and given compensation.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize last year - even though she has not been charged with any offence.

The working group said this is also unjustified and called for her to be freed.

In both cases China has contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, says the working group.

These opinions were supported by the US state department.

"[We] once again call for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo as well as his wife from detention with full restoration of their rights and urge China to uphold its international human rights obligations," said spokesman Mark Toner at a news briefing.

The working group's opinions were released by Freedom Now, which is based in Washington.

Organisation founder Jared Genser said: "This is a critical affirmation from the United Nations that the Chinese government's detention of Dr Liu and Liu Xia are in flagrant violation of international law."

But there seems little chance that China will comply with the UN body's demands.

The organisation has no power to enforce its opinions and China has long maintained that the activist Liu Xiaobo was given a fair trial.

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