China convicts US woman for spying

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, April 26 (IANS) A Chinese court has convicted an American businesswoman for spying, sentencing her to three-and-half years in prison and ordered her deportation.

Sandy Phan-Gillis, resident of Houston, Texas, has been in custody in China since March 2015 when she was detained during a business trip.

One of her lawyers, Shang Baojun said she pleaded guilty on Tuesday to espionage charges in a closed court hearing in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, CNN reported.

It wasn't immediately clear how much longer Phan-Gillis will remain in Chinese detention before she is deported.

Her husband, Jeff Gillis has been campaigning for her release, insisting that she is innocent.

Jeff Gillis has said in the past that he has documents that show his wife was in the US during the period in the 1990s when she is alleged to have spied for the American government in China.

Phan-Gillis may have chosen to plead guilty at her trial in order to try to secure an earlier release, according to the report.

"She's supposed to serve the sentence in China," her lawyer Shang said.

"But maybe there's a condition based on which she can be deported to the US before the imprisonment. We hope she can return to the US as soon as possible," he added.

China hasn't publicly released details of the allegations against her.

Shang said he wasn't permitted to reveal further information about the case without official approval.

The US government is in contact with the Chinese government at the "highest levels" about the case, a spokeswoman at the US embassy said.

Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticised China in relation to the case, saying it was not observing "international norms relating to the right to a fair trial and to liberty and security".

--IANS

soni/vt