BEIJING - Lawyers for the family of a Chinese man allegedly tortured to death during an internal Communist Party investigation were thrown out of the court on Tuesday at the start of the landmark, sensitive trial of six party officials accused of the crime.
Mr Yu Qiyi, 42, a chief engineer for a state-owned investment firm in the eastern city of Wenzhou, drowned in April after being dunked repeatedly in a bucket of ice-cold water, state media said last week.
The accusations have shed light on the secret workings of the party's own internal judicial system, one lawyers say is rife with abuse.
The officials - five from the party's corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and a prosecutor - were indicted on charges of intentional infliction of harm leading to death. They face a maximum penalty of death.
But on the first day of the trial in Quzhou, a city not far from Wenzhou, the judge refused to allowed Mr Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer representing Mr Yu's family, to question the first defendant, and then threw him and his colleague out of the court.
"They've expelled us and not allowed us to ask questions of the defendant, which is our legal right ... We're extremely angry about this," Mr Pu told Reuters.
Mr Pu added that the court had also banned the use of the name of the official who probably first ordered the probe into Mr Yu, saying he could only be referred to as "the leader".
"It's totally over the top," he said. "These six people have simply been picked to take the blame."