China releases rights lawyer jailed for years: relative

BEIJING – A Chinese human rights lawyer whose secret detention and alleged torture by Communist authorities prompted an international outcry was released Thursday after a three-year jail sentence, a close relative said.

Gao Zhisheng, who defended some of China's most vulnerable people including Christians and coal miners, has been held largely incommunicado by authorities since 2009.

"He is out (of jail), but he has not returned home -- he's at his father-in-law's house in Urumqi," Gao's relative told AFP by telephone, referring to the capital of the far-western region of Xinjiang where the lawyer had been serving his sentence.

The relative added that Gao's health was normal, good, but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

It was not clear whether Gao, 50, will still be subject to some form of house arrest. His wife Geng He, who fled to the United States, told AFP she was worried he would face further restrictions following his release.

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