America

Ex-US footballer jailed over China bar fight

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A former US football player as been sentenced to four years in prison following a fight in a bar.

Wendell Brown was teaching American Football in southwest China when he attacked a man in 2016, causing the victim to lose his eye.

The former Ball State University player denied the charges and his supporters claim that the brawl was started after someone threw a bottle at him.

Brown, originally from Detroit, will appeal against the sentence – one that an activist working on his behalf called "extremely unjust and excessive".

The victim had demanded more than $100,000 in compensation to settle out of court, but the two failed to reach a settlement.

Similar disputes are often settled out-of-court in China, where the conviction rate is 99%.

"Four years for a fight in a bar is extremely unjust and excessive," said John Kamm, a San Francisco-based activist who frequently meets with senior Chinese officials to seek clemency for political prisoners in China and had lobbied them on Brown's behalf.

China sometimes deports foreigners following their conviction but it was unclear whether deportation was a possibility for Brown, said Mr Kamm. Brown has already been detained 20 months while awaiting the verdict.

His supporters say the White House, the State Department and Michigan state officials have raised the case with China.

"We are aware of reports that Mr Brown has been sentenced to four years," a spokesman at the US embassy in Beijing said Thursday. "The Department of State takes seriously its duty to assist US citizens abroad. We continue to closely follow his case."

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Brown, 31, played linebacker for Ball State between 2004 and 2008 and went on to play in the Canadian Football League before moving to China to coach.

"I still don't understand: he is guilty of what?" said his mother, Antoinette. "It was all about the money. It was a clear shakedown. It's unfair justice."

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