The nephew of blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the US embassy in April, went on trial Friday for attacking local officials, his father said, adding he had been barred from court.
Chen, who was jailed after exposing abuses under China's "one child" population control policy, caused a diplomatic row when he escaped house arrest in his village in Shandong province and fled to the US mission in Beijing.
As he was freed to leave for the United States, government officials and police descended on his village home, taking away his brother Chen Guangfu and prompting his nephew Chen Kegui to attack them with a kitchen knife, wounding three people.
The brother was later released.
"We applied to listen to the trial as observers, but they refused to let us in," Chen Guangfu told AFP by telephone from outside the court house.
"They said we were witnesses in the case and that is why they refused to allow us in as observers. I am not a witness."
Officials at the court house confirmed to AFP by phone that the trial had started but refused to say if a verdict would be reached on Friday.
The family has maintained that authorities barged into their home in the middle of the night unannounced and uninvited, and refused to identify themselves when the attack took place.
The nephew of blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng (pictured in August), who fled to the US embassy in April, went on trial on Friday for attacking local officials, his father said, adding he had been barred from court.
Chen Kegui has been in police custody since April 26, with local officials refusing visits, dismissing lawyers hired by the family and appointing government attorneys.
The court-appointed lawyers informed the family of Friday's trial only hours before it started, Chen Guangfu said.
"The lawyers that we hired did not have enough time to get here before the trial started," he added.
Chen Kegui was charged with the crime of intentional injury, he said. He did not know how the court-appointed attorneys would plead in the case.
He said his son should be released as he was defending himself from intruders inside the family home, adding authorities may have dismissed the family's lawyers and delayed the trial in order to allow wounds from any possible police beating to heal.
"The 'trial' has obviously been arranged to eliminate the possibility that any of the lawyers retained by the family or the witnesses whom they would like to summon can attend," said Jerome Cohen, an expert on Chinese law at New York University School of Law who has helped and worked with Chen Guangcheng.
"This seems highly irregular since, so far as we know, no indictment has even been issued or at least made known to the family," Cohen said in an email.