Chinese authorities have jailed the prominent dissident-lawyer Gao Zhisheng in the remote far west, his brother said Monday, the first confirmation of Gao's whereabouts in nearly two years in a case that has fanned criticism about secretive detentions.
Gao has been imprisoned in the Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang region on charges of inciting subversion of state power, his brother, Gao Zhiyi, told Reuters by telephone from his home in Shaanxi province, citing a court notice.
Now we finally know where he is, I hope we can visit him in a few days, but it's a long way to travel, said Gao Zhiyi.
The court notice amounted to the clearest information of Gao Zhisheng's location since April 2010, when he briefly made contact with friends and foreign reporters after being held in secretive detention for more than a year.
China's state news agency Xinhua reported last month that Gao Zhisheng had been sent back to jail, ending his probation for an earlier conviction. But Xinhua did not say where Gao was, and his family and supporters believe he has been held secretively by authorities for much of the past two years.
A combative Beijing-based rights advocate who tackled many causes anathema to the ruling Communist Party, Gao was sentenced to three years in jail in 2006 for inciting subversion of state power, a charge often used to punish critics of one-party rule.
Gao was given five years of probation, formally sparing him from the prison sentence. But his family was under constant surveillance and Gao was detained on and off over that time.
His probation was soon to expire when the court announced that he would instead be sent to jail to serve his sentence.
Gao was taken from a relative's home in Shaanxi province in north China in February 2009 -- his family says by security officers -- and had been missing since he resurfaced briefly in April 2010.
Gao's wife, Geng He, and children have sought refuge in the United States where members of Congress have pressed his case.
The United Nations working group on arbitrary detention said in March 2010 that Gao was being detained in violation of international law.
Shaya, where the notice said Gao is jailed, is about 1,100 km (680 miles) southwest of Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Robert Birsel)