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British officials name suspect in Wen shoe case

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 01:52 IST
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British prosecutors have named the man suspected of throwing a shoe at the Chinese premier in Cambridge as a German postgraduate student at the university, ahead of a court appearance on Tuesday.

Martin Jahnke, a 27-year-old German national working at the prestigious university's Department of Pathology, was arrested following the protest against Wen Jiabao last week as he gave a speech in the eastern English city.

China condemned the incident as "despicable" but Wen has also urged the student be allowed to continue his studies.

Jahnke will appear at Cambridge Magistrates' Court in eastern England on Tuesday, said a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the official prosecuting body in England and Wales.

"He is charged with one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of or to provoke violence, contrary to section four (1) and (4) of the Public Order Act 1986," he said.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a 5,000-pound ($7,400, 5,730 euro) fine.

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Jahnke carries out important genetic research into debilitating diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis under a group led by Professor John Trowsdale.

His work has been published in the Journal of Biochemistry and he has delivered lunchtime seminars to other graduate students, the newspaper said. In his spare time, he is also a keen member of the university caving club.

On the last day of this three-day visit to Britain Wen was giving a speech at Cambridge university, discussing China's role in the globalised world, when he was interrupted by a protester shouting "This is a scandal" and calling him a dictator.

In a clear echo of the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at George W. Bush in Baghdad in December, a shoe was then hurled at the Chinese premier.

The sports trainer landed about a metre away from Wen, who dodged sharply to one side to watch it hit the stage but kept his composure.

As the protester was bundled out, he shouted to audience members: "Stand up and protest", to which some of the spectators -- most of whom appeared to be Chinese students -- retorted: "Shame on you, shame on you."

Wen continued speaking, condemning the action as "despicable". But he said it "cannot stand in the way of friendship between China and the UK", receiving a round of applause from the audience.

The university authorities apologised for the incident.

But Wen has also urged the student be allowed to continue his studies, according the Chinese foreign ministry.

"I would like to hereby convey the following from Premier Wen: Education is the best help for a young student," China's Ambassador to Britain Fu Ying was quoted saying in comments posted on the foreign ministry website over the weekend.

"It is hoped that the university will give the student an opportunity to continue his studies... As a Chinese saying goes, it is more precious than gold for a young person to turn himself around to redress mistakes."

Fu said Jahnke "lacks knowledge about China," adding, "It is hoped that this student will see his mistake and seek to understand a real and developing China."