BEIJING (AP) — A partly paralyzed man who exploded a bomb inside Beijing’s airport in hopes of winning redress over an alleged beating by public officials was given a six-year prison sentence Tuesday.
Former motorcycle taxi driver Ji Zhongxing went on trial last month for endangering public safety with a homemade bomb. Ji was the only person injured in the July 20 explosion, losing a hand. The attack drew widespread condemnation but also sympathy from many Chinese who said it shows the government ignores the powerless and marginalized.
Ji had faced up to 10 years in prison.
The Beijing Chaoyang District Court said on its microblog that the explosion inside the crowded airport and Ji’s transporting of the device by public bus from his home province of Shandong constituted a major threat to public safety. But it said it decided on a lighter sentence because Ji had warned onlookers that he had a bomb and had cooperated with prosecutors.
Ji’s lawyers and relatives were on hand for the verdict and sentence Tuesday. The court didn’t say whether the defendant was among the nearly 40 people in attendance.
Ji’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said his client had hoped to attract police so he could be detained and discuss his beating in 2005 by city security guards in the southern city of Dongguan.
Ji had denied exploding the bomb deliberately, claiming it went off accidently as he was shifting it from one hand to the other.
Ji, 33, from the eastern city of Heze, had been petitioning Chinese authorities for years after the 2005 attack, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and more than $16,000 in debt, his elder brother Ji Zhongji said.
Response to the verdict online was generally positive, although some questioned whether the government was sincere in investigating Ji’s earlier beating. Legal commentator Xu Xin wrote in his verified account on the Twitter-like Weibo that Ji’s sentence was relatively light.
“Well, that’s that. At least in prison, his life will have some sort of order,” Xu wrote.