Man in court for shoe attack on China's Wen

AFP - [email protected]
Man in court for shoe attack on China's Wen

A German student accused of hurling a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at an elite English university pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a public order offence.


Martin Jahnke, a 27-year-old pathology postgraduate student at Cambridge University, spoke only to confirm his name and address, and to enter his plea at the eastern city's Magistrates' Courts.

His case was adjourned Tuesday, at the prosecutors' request, for a pre-trial review on March 10, and he was released on unconditional bail. The incident on February 2 cast a shadow over Wen's visit, which came at the end of a European tour aimed at mending ties with China's allies in the region.

Jahnke appeared in Court One wearing a black suit, a blue top and black slip-on shoes. Clean shaven and with short, black hair, the softly-spoken student looked pale and seemed slightly nervous.

The Crown Prosecution Service, the official prosecuting body in England and Wales, alleges that Jahnke, "with intent to cause Wen Jiabao harassment, alarm or distress, used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour, thereby causing that person, or another, harassment, alarm or distress."

The alleged offence is contrary to section four of the Public Order Act 1986 and if found guilty, he could face six months in prison and a 5,000-pound (7,400 dollar, 5,730 euro) fine as a maximum sentence. During the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes, prosecutors asked

for a four-week adjournment to gather more evidence. Jahnke's lawyer agreed with the request.

"I need to get hold of video footage... there is footage of the incident," the prosecutor said. "There is a lot of work to be done."

The hearing was notably attended by Chinese and German media and by Chinese students. Jahnke was told by the magistrate that because he had denied committing the offence, "there must be a trial when people can bring their evidence and their witnesses, and you can too."

Before leaving court, Jahnke was told that if he did not appear in court next month he would be committing an imprisonable offence. The graduate left the courthouse carrying a blue bag and a blue waterproof jacket.

Wen was giving a lecture in Cambridge last Monday when he was interrupted by a protester shouting "this is a scandal" and branding him a dictator. The protester threw a sports shoe, which hit the stage close to the Chinese leader, and was then escorted out of the auditorium.

Wen described the action as "despicable" before resuming his speech. But he has since urged that the student be allowed to continue his studies at Cambridge, one of the English-speaking world's most prestigious universities. The Chinese premier has insisted that the incident would not harm relations with Britain.

Jahnke could face disciplinary action by the authorities at the university, where he reportedly carries out important genetic research into debilitating diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

The university said a complaint had been made and was being investigated. University Vice-Chancellor Professor Alison Richard expressed deep regret at the time of the protest. "This university is a place for considered argument and debate, not for shoe-throwing," she added.

At the weekend, Fu Ying, China's ambassador to Britain, said Wen "hoped that the university will give the student an opportunity to continue his studies," according to the Chinese foreign ministry website. "As a Chinese saying goes, it is more precious than gold for a young person

to turn himself around to redress mistakes," she said.


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