Phurbu Rinpoche

Revered lama Phurbu Rinpoche was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in December 2009 for possession of weapons and occupying state land.

His lawyers claim that his arrest was unlawful, the evidence against him unsound and that he has been tortured.

Free Tibet believes that Phurbu was detained following peaceful demonstrations by nuns from Pangrina nunnery, where he is abbot, in order to deter local Tibetans from further protests.

He is the first reincarnate lama to be charged with a serious crime since Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche was given a death sentence, later reduced to life after high-profile campaigning.

Forced confession

Phurbu's Chinese lawyers Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong could not be present at the sentencing as they had been disbarred from practising earlier in the year.

They stated that his confession had been obtained after four days and four nights of continuous interrogation. At the same time, the defendant was told that if he did confess that the weapons and explosives were his, then his wife and son would be detained.

Under such harsh interrogation the defendant did 'confess without reservation'. The lawyers also complained that they had not been allowed to meet with the defendant and that this "brutally and illegally violated" their right to do so under Chinese law.

No fair trial

The trial was postponed in April 2009. Li Fangping stated that no alternative data had yet been offered, and the fact that the authorities have now removed the lawyers' right to practice may jeopardise the chance of a fair trial. It is thought that Phurbu could face anything between five to 15 years in prison.

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