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Iran Press TV

China convicts detained American woman with espionage

Iran Press TV

Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:33PM

An American businesswoman from Houston, Texas, has been sentenced in China to three and half years in prison and deportation on spying charges.

The sentence against Sandy Phan-Gillis was issued after a closed-door trial at Nanning Intermediate People's Court in the southern province of Guangxi on Tuesday.

Phan-Gillis, a 57-year-old naturalized US citizen of both Vietnamese and Chinese descent, was detained in March 2015 at the Macau border after her trip to mainland China with a trade delegation from Houston.

She was accused of espionage and stealing state secrets and allegedly passing them to a third party.

Her lawyer Shang Baojun has confirmed the sentencing and said he expected a written verdict against her client within five days.

"The court order for deportation suggests that she could be credited with having already served more than half of her sentence, making her eligible for parole," Shang said.

A US-based rights group has also expressed satisfaction with the ruling, calling it a reflection of improving ties between Beijing and Washington.

"I think she will be released and she will be back in the US fairly soon," said John Kamm, a human rights activist in China who has worked on the case and heads the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco, California.

Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention denounced China's handling of the case, saying it had not observed "international norms relating to the right to a fair trial."

The group criticized Beijing for "holding the accused at a secret location and putting her in solitary confinement."

Phan-Gillis is currently being held in a detention center and not a prison and did not plan to appeal, her lawyer reported.

The US and China have become increasingly suspicious of each other's espionage activities. The US government has routinely accused China of state-sponsored hacking of industrial secrets.

In a letter transcribed by a US consular official in 2016, Phan-Gillis had said that her detention was because of politics and not for any crime. "I am accused of being a spy for the US government. I have never been a spy."

Meanwhile, a US embassy spokeswoman said Washington "remained concerned" about the case and was in contact with "high level" Chinese government officials.

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