Torture lawsuit for Chinese leader

AN Icelandic lawyer had filed a lawsuit against visiting Chinese official Luo Gan, accusing the top Communist Party leader of torture and genocide in the crackdown on Falungong, the group said today.

Ragnar Adalsteinsson, a renowned Icelandic human rights lawyer, filed the action on Thursday with the State Criminal Prosecutor in Iceland, Bogi Nilsson.

Luo has orchestrated the four-year campaign against the spiritual group as head of the party's Politics and Law Commission, China's top police and judicial organ, and is in Iceland on a two-day visit as part of a four-nation tour of Europe.

The legal complaint was based on the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which Iceland signed in November 1996, the London-based office of Falungong said.

As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, Icelandic courts were authorised to hear cases which alleged violation of its terms, it said.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Falungong practitioners from Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Ireland.

"Iceland has a legal and moral duty to prosecute forcefully and bring to justice persons that are guilty of systematic violations of international human rights," Adalsteinsson was quoted as saying.

It is the twelfth international lawsuit in nine countries to emerge in the past two years against high-ranking Chinese officials or government bodies for their roles in pursuing Falungong.

The group, whose followers practice meditation to improve their physical and mental well-being, say more than 1600 members have been tortured or beaten to death in China during the crackdown.

More than 500 have been given prison sentences of over 20 years, more than 1000 interned in mental hospitals and more than 25,000 held in work camps.

Some 100,000 others were being held without trial, it said.

Yesterday China's state-run press said the crackdown was a matter of national stability and that efforts to eradicate the group would be "carried out to the end".

"We should be fully aware that the fight will be long, arduous and complicated, and therefore, we must be vigilant against the Falungong cult and should in no way relax our efforts," a commentary carried by the official Xinhua news agency said.

Last month, a lawyer who prosecuted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet filed a criminal lawsuit in Belgium against Luo, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and one other senior official on behalf of Falungong practitioners.

That lawsuit also charges the three men with genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.