SUNNYVALE, California: A human rights organisation has launched legal action against Yahoo! over its alleged role in passing information to the Chinese government about dissidents, who were then reportedly tortured and imprisoned.

US-based World Organization for Human Rights has accused Yahoo! of cooperating with the Beijing regime by supplying it with email records and IP addresses of several activists who used its service.

The company admits it did hand over the information about Wang Xiaoning, his wife Yu Ling and journalist Shi Tao because it had to abide by the laws of the country.

However, it maintains there was "little connection" between the information and the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the prisoners.

Yahoo argues in a San Francisco court filing that the WOHR legal action is "a political case challenging the Chinese Government" which had no place in the US courts.

The web giant also said said that while it deeply sympathises with the families of the prisoners and did not condone oppression, it had "no control over the sovereign Government of the People's Republic of China, the laws it passes and the manner in which it enforces its laws".

Says Morton Sklar, executive director of the World Organization: "It is not the Chinese Government that is the defendant here. It is Yahoo!, for their part in this process. They gave the pieces of information that allowed China to take these actions."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK) and The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff