A court in China has sentenced the brother-in-law of an imprisoned Chinese dissident to 11 years in jail on charges of fraud.

Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, was found guilty by a Beijing court of defrauding a man called Zhang Bing of 3 million yuan ($490,000) along with another colleague.

The harsh sentence on Liu Hui was seen as an official retribution on the Liu family, Reuters reports. Mo Shaoping, the lawyer defending Liu, said the jail term was “out of all proportion” to the alleged offence, which should have been treated as a civil dispute and “not a criminal matter”.

Critics say the Liu’s sentence was aimed at intimidating other political activists and thwarting the increasing attention on the plight of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, who has remained under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Prize in 2010. She was allowed to leave her house to attend her brother’s court hearing, reports Wall Street Journal.

“I absolutely cannot accept this. This is simply persecution,” a tearful Liu Xia told reporters. “This is completely an illegal verdict.”

Liu Xiaobo was arrested soon after he was awarded the Nobel prize  in 2010 and is currently serving 11 years in jail for ‘inciting the subversion of state power’.