Chinese dissident fails in effort to get murder case heard at European court
A Chinese dissident convicted of murder after an Old Bailey trial held in secret has lost his attempt to present his whole defence case to the .
The decision comes as potentially significant new evidence has emerged – a potential new witness – as a result of a on the case last month.
Wang Yam, the grandson of Chairman Mao's third in command, fled China and was granted refugee status in Britain in 1992. In 2009 he was convicted of the murder of Allan Chappelow, 86, a retired journalist found battered to death in his home in Hampstead, north .
The prosecution suggested that Yam had stolen bank details from Chappelow's mailbox and had possibly been caught in the act by Chappelow, whom he had then beaten to death. His defence case was held in camera on the grounds of "national security" and the media were barred from reporting it or even speculating on what it might be. He was convicted after a retrial and jailed for life.
In an application to lift the gagging order so that his defence could be presented in full, Yam claimed that he did not receive a fair trial because of the secrecy. He argued that potential witnesses, who might support his story, would not come forward.
In his written judgment published , Mr Justice Ouseley, the original trial judge, declined to vary the gagging order.
The judgment states: "I acknowledge that a court should not stand in the way of what an applicant wishes to place before Strasbourg, unless there is very good reason to do so. I have no doubt that there are very good reasons to do so in this case." He added that "the protected interests included national security and the protection of the identity of a witness or other person".
The judgment continues: "Wang Yam's name was in the public domain as were the names of the gangsters whom he alleged were responsible for the theft of the deceased's identity. It is impossible to imagine that the gangsters Wang Yam claimed to have dealt with would have come forward, and it is pure speculation that a third party would have come forward because of any greater publicity."
Following publication of a Guardian report on the case last month, a potential new witness has emerged. A former neighbour of the murdered man told the Guardian: "I lived a few doors down from [Chappelow's house] back in 2006. The following February, [when Yam was already in custody] I was in our house and hear a rustling in our porch. I opened the door to find a man with a knife going through our post. He pointed the knife at me and I shut the door … He said if I called the police he would kill them."
The neighbour called the police, who advised him to change his bank details. "It is clear to me that there was a violent person or gang operating in the street and the lack of police interest was very bizarre." The former neighbour has now given a statement to Yam's lawyers.
Commenting on Thursday's decision, Yam's barrister, Kirsty Brimelow QC, said: "The UK government's position amounts to a lack of trust in the judges of ECHR. As the UK ratified the European convention, this approach is disappointing."
Yam's solicitors, Janes, said they were considering what steps should now be taken. The case is also being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, a spokesman confirmed on Thursday.
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