Liu Xiaobo, one of China's most prominent advocates of dem
Liu Xiaobo, one of China's most prominent advocates of dem

One of China's best-known dissidents has gone on trial, more than a year after he was taken into custody. The dissident has been accused of subversion and faces a maximum of 15 years in jail.

Song Zhaimin stands near the entrance to the Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court, yelling "freedom of speech and long live democracy."  He also yells "long live Xiaobo" - referring to dissident Liu Xiaobo, who went on trail in the courthouse on Wednesday.

Liu was detained about one year ago.  He was among a group of Chinese activists that organized "Charter 08", a document that calls for respect for universal human rights and democratic reform. Charter 08 had more than 300 Chinese signatories when it was first introduced and now there are thousands.

During the trial, police confined journalists to a small space outside. Diplomats from at least 14 countries applied to attend the proceedings, but were told the court had already allocated all of the audience spaces.

Gregory May is one of several diplomats who follow human rights issues for the U.S. embassy.

"We call on the government of China to release him immediately and to respect the rights of all citizens to peacefully express their political views in favor of universally recognized fundamental freedoms, including the right to petition one's government," May said.

Swedish diplomat Nicolas Weeks also waited in front of the courthouse.

"We have obvious concerns. Sweden is the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, and on behalf of the EU, we are obviously very concerned about this case, and we made a declaration to that effect last week," said Weeks.

More than 20 Chinese came to the courthouse from different parts of the country to support Liu.

Shop owner Zhao Lingdi has her own concerns, about local authorities in Shanghai confiscating her house. But she says she just arrived by train, and came straight to the courthouse from the station to show her solidarity.

She says she thinks Liu Xiaobo is an important human rights figure, so of course she pays attention to him.

Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao also waited outside the courthouse.

Teng says if Liu Xiaobo is found guilty of a crime because of "Charter 08," he and other Chinese who signed the document also share the same guilt.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia was not at the courthouse, but in an interview earlier this month, said she has little hope for a fair verdict.

Liu says she feels that whatever crime Chinese authorities say a defendant has committed is the crime he or she will be found guilty of.

Liu's brother and brother-in-law were the only family members allowed to attend Wednesday's proceedings. Brother-in-law Liu Hui says the verdict will be handed down Friday.

While case is drawing international attention, there is no news about it on Chinese Web sites or blogs.