Germany urges release of detained China human rights lawyer

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Germany is calling on China to release a prominent human rights lawyer charged with inciting subversion of state power after posting a letter online urging democratic reforms.

German human rights commissioner Barbel Kofler this week said Yu Wensheng is innocent of wrongdoing and had only sought to campaign for democratic reforms and "support fellow citizens who were harassed for exercising their human rights."

Kofler said Yu should be released without delay and urged China to "fully respect the civil rights guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution."

Yu was grabbed by police on Jan. 19 while preparing to take his 13-year-old son to school.

Inciting subversion is a vaguely worded charge often used to muzzle dissent.

China's Communist leaders have been cracking down heavily on independent legal activists in recent years.