Yahoo may soon be forced to answer in a U.S. court why it helped the Chinese government identify dissenters, who were later thrown in prison, including journalist Shi Tao (pictured).

The NY Times reports that the wife of another politicial prisoner sued Yahoo in U.S. District Court in San Francisco yesterday, accusing the Sunnyvale-based company of abetting the commission of torture by helping Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later beaten and imprisoned. Wang Xiaoning, who according to the suit is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China; his wife, Yu Ling of San Francisco; and other unidentified defendants seek damages and an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities. “I hope to be able to have Yahoo promise that in the future they will stop this kind of wrongdoing,” Yu told the Times.

Shi, an Internet essayist and former editor of the Changsha-based newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao, is serving a 10-year sentence for “leaking state secrets abroad” in a 2004 e-mail sent to the editor of an overseas Web site, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The e-mail described Chinese government instructions on how his newspaper should cover the 15th anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Yahoo helped Chinese authorities identify Shi through his e-mail account; he has been imprisoned since November 2004. (Photo from Committee to Protect Journalists.)

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