Moscow news: After some twists and turns, the Moscow local court decided not to deport two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners from Russia and out of humanitarian concern urged they seek protection and help from the Russian Immigrant Department.

Li Zhihe and his wife are Falun Gong practitioners. They came to Moscow in January of 2000 from mainland China and obtained United Nations Refugee status one year later. According to Russian law, one has to get permission from the Russian Immigration Department in order to legally stay in Russia. This couple applied for Russian refugee status but their case had not been settled due to the large number of such applications.

During the waiting period, Li Zhihe and his wife mistook their serial number in the waiting list for their serial number in their application file. They also lacked the knowledge of how to communicate with the local police. On October 1st, 2003, they were arrested as illegal residents and were ordered to go to court within three days.

On October 3rd, the couple went to the appropriate court in Moscow. Without listening to their statement, the judge made a quick decision to deport them from Russia and have them pay a fine. The couple was soon sent to the deportation camp where they lost their freedom.

Upon learning the news, Russian practitioners clarified the facts about the persecution in China to different levels of organizations including local and superior court, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Security, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Parliament, and human rights organizations. These organizations had only heard about Falun Gong through the Chinese government's propaganda.

Meanwhile, Li Zhihe and his wife appealed to the Moscow City Court (the middle level court).

On October 13th, the city court earnestly listened to their statement and decided to reject the original decision and ask the lower court to open the trial again. Mrs. Li was released on that day and Mr. Li, the next.

On November 3rd, the trial was opened again at the lower court and closed again as the judge decided that the interpreter was unqualified.

On November 5th, the trial was opened once again at the lower court. Many practitioners went to show their support for the couple.

On the morning of November 6th, the lower court decided to maintain their decision to fine them but to withdraw the deportation decision.

In the four-page-long judge statement, the court documented in detail the defendants' and their attorney's statement about the persecution they faced in China because of their belief in Falun Gong. According to the rule, the couple was fined 1,000 rubles (approximately to US $30) as a penalty for not holding a legal resident status. However, the court will not deport them.

At the end, the statement said: "Out of consideration of humanitarianism and international human rights protection, the court urges the couple seek protection from the local refugee department via human rights channels."

On the afternoon of October 6th, Russia's largest radio station reported the whole process from the couple's arrest to the second trial from a positive perspective. This channel is very influential in the former Soviet Union and is widely listened to throughout the entire country as well as by listeners on the China-Russia border.

(Reported by Clearwisdom reporter)