Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail on fraud charges by a court in China.
The lawyer defending Liu Hui said the jail term was out of all proportion to the alleged offence.
He said it should have been treated as a civil dispute, not a criminal matter.
Liu Xiaobo was already in jail when he won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for campaigning for peaceful democratic change in China.
Since then his wife, Liu Xia – sister of Liu Hui – has been held under strict house arrest in what she says is an official vendetta against his family.
This latest sentencing of a close family member is being seen as further political persecution.
It comes at the same time as China’s President Xi Jinping is in America for talks with President Obama, a summit at which the US side says the issue of human rights is being raised.
Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail on fraud charges
The court in Huairou, north-east of Beijing, convicted Liu Hui, a manager in a property company, of defrauding a man of 3 million yuan ($490,000) along with a colleague.
“As Liu Hui’s defence attorney I definitely do not approve of this verdict, because we see this fundamentally as a civil issue, and it fundamentally does not constitute criminal fraud,” lawyer Mo Shaoping told reporters.
He said Liu Hui maintained his innocence.
A tearful Liu Xia accused the authorities of persecuting her family.
“I absolutely cannot accept this. This is simply persecution,” she said before being driven away from the court.
“This is completely an illegal verdict.”
She said she had “completely lost hope” in the government, adding: “I can’t even leave my house.”
Police pulled journalists away from the car as Liu Xia was driven off.
Liu Xiaobo, who won the prize despite fierce Chinese opposition, was jailed in 2009 for helping to draft a manifesto – Charter 08 – calling for political change.
He is currently serving 11 years in jail for inciting the subversion of state power.
Liu Xia, also a known activist, has been living in her Beijing apartment with no internet or phone access and limited weekly visits with family.
She had been allowed to leave her apartment to attend the court hearing.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is expected to be fined a total of about £400 million ($625 million) by UK and US regulators as a result of the LIBOR scandal.
The head of RBS’s investment banking arm since 2008, John Hourican, is also expected to step down.
However, there is no suggestion he was involved in the scandal.
RBS is accused of colluding with other banks to rig LIBOR rates during the global financial crisis. Barclays and UBS have already received fines.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the UK government had made it clear to RBS that the fines should be paid from staff bonuses, saying that neither taxpayers nor bank customers should bear the cost.
The government has an 81% stake in RBS following the part-nationalization of the bank during the financial crisis.
“The problem is that these are global banks and if they’ve committed breaches of the law in the US they have to be punished accordingly,” said Vince Cable.
“It is absolutely galling for UK taxpayers to be asked to stump up for it.”
But he acknowledged that the government could not force RBS to act, despite its majority stake.
RBS is expected to be fined a total of about $625 million by UK and US regulators as a result of the LIBOR scandal
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, RBS said it was still in “late-stage settlement discussions” with US and UK authorities over “potential settlements”.
“Although the settlements remain to be agreed, RBS expects they will include the payment of significant penalties as well as certain other sanctions,” the bank said.
Those discussions are taking place with the Financial Services Authority in the UK, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the US Department of Justice.
The greater proportion of the fines are expected to be imposed by the US authorities.
Swiss bank UBS admitted to wire fraud charges against its Tokyo office as part of its £940m settlement with international regulators in December.
Barclays, the first bank to admit to its role in rigging LIBOR, paid a total of £290 million ($460 million).
John Hourican, who earned £3.5 million ($5.5 million) for last year’s work, is expected to lose his bonus for 2012 along with his position as head of RBS’s investment bank. He is also expected to forego £4 million ($6 million) of bonuses from previous years, in order to help pay the expected fines.
John Hourican is the highest profile casualty at the bank since it emerged last year that dozens of bankers had willfully manipulated the key interest rate.
LIBOR, a daily average of borrowing costs announced by a panel of London-based banks, is used to calculate payments on hundreds of trillions of dollars-worth of financial contracts.