(Minghui.org) The four Falun Gong practitioners still detained in the Heilongjiang human rights case were illegally tried on December 17, 2014. As a result of due process-related protests from the eight defense lawyers, the court adjourned several times and decided to continue the session the next day.
The four Falun Gong practitioners, Wang Yanxin (王燕欣), Meng Fanli (孟繁荔), Shi Mengwen (石孟文), and Li Guifang (李桂芳), were previously scheduled to be tried on August 11, 2014. Eight lawyers joined forces to defend them.
The date and location of the postponed trial date kept changing until November 3. The four practitioners and their family members weren't notified. They learned the information from the defense lawyers.
Defense lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全章) wrote in his online blog afterwards, “We saw that Mr. Shi Mengwen was in a single layer of clothes and slippers. He told us that the Jiansanjiang Detention Center didn't allow him to have winter clothes. The outdoor temperate at Jiansanjiang reaches as low as 30 degrees celsius below zero (-22°F) in winter. This is inhumane! Upon our protests, Mr. Shi finally got a coat. Otherwise, he would be frozen. Qianjin Court wasn't as warm as a cozy northeastern home.”
The road to Qianjin Court to catch the trial scheduled at 10:00 a.m. on December 17 was similar to a hurdle race for the defense lawyers.
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), one of the lawyers, said that the minivan the five lawyers were riding in was stopped at a checkpoint near Jiansanjiang. “Many police officers were present. We all showed our lawyer's licenses. A police officer took the vehicle into custody as “illegal transportation.”
According to Mr. Lin, the lawyers then tried to take a bus, but the bus driver was told not to allow us to board.
The lawyers finally called two taxis and rushed towards the court at Qianjin Farm. They were stopped again at another checkpoint at 9:55 a.m. They finally arrived late after being held for over ten minutes at the second checkpoint and directed through a detour right in front of the courthouse.
According to local sources, the police set three checkpoints on roads to the Qianjin Farm on the day of the court trial. Witnesses saw officers with submachine guns at the second checkpoint, stopping and examining vehicles and pedestrians.
Family members of Li Guifang (李桂芳), one of the Falun Gong practitioners being tried, passed the first checkpoint and negotiated for two of them to attend the court session. However, all of them were stopped and turned back by police at the third checkpoint.
The elder sister of Meng Fanli (孟繁荔), another defendant, and her two friends made it to the courthouse, but were taken to a police station.
Sun Yanhuan (孙艳环), a friend of Wang Yanxin (王燕欣), was arrested when dining near the Qianjin Court. She was later released.
Shi Mengchang (石孟昌), elder brother of Shi Mengwen (石孟文), was going to serve as a witness. Starting from two days prior to the trial, he found over ten strangers stationing outside of his home. They were likely plainclothes police officers. The same thing happened to Mr. Shi's aunt, another witness.
The trial eventually began at 1:00 p.m. Two friends of Ms. Wang Yanxin, elder sister of Ms. Meng Fanli, Ms. Li Guifang's son and daughter, daughter of Mr. Shi Mengwen, and another family member observed the session.
Major locations of the case, from left to right: Jiansanjiang (location of the March 21 arrest), Qinglongshan Farm (location of Qinglongshan Brainwashing Center), and Qianjin Farm (location of the court trial of four practitioners).
Four prominent human rights lawyers and seven Falun Gong practitioners were arrested on March 21, 2014, at the Green Tree Inn in the Jiansanjiang area of Heilongjiang, where they were meeting to discuss plans to secure the release of the Falun Gong practitioners detained at Qinglongshan Brainwashing Center, officially known as the “Jiansanjiang Farm Legal Education Center.”
Due to international pressure, the lawyers, Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Zhang Junjie (张俊杰), Wang Cheng (王成). and Tang Jitian (唐吉田) were released in March and April.
Qinglongshan Brainwashing Center was closed on April 28, 2014. However, authorities replaced it with a compulsory drug detoxification center in Qiqiha’er City, Heilongjiang, which is being used as a 'legal education center' to detain Falun Gong practitioners.
Presiding judge Wang Jingjun (王敬军) told one of the lawyers that if they entered a not guilty plea during the trial, they would be expelled from the courtroom. The threat was delivered on July 31, the same day that the lawyers were notified of their clients' trial previously scheduled on August 11.
The local Bureau of Justice, the Bar Association, the Public Security Bureau, and the National Security Bureau have carried out intimidation tactics by repeatedly “investigating” the defense attorneys and their law firms.
Mr. Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), originally hired to represent Ms. Li Guifang, was “summoned” and “talked with” by personnel from the Beijing Public Security Bureau and the Beijing Justice Bureau. They accused him of violating regulations by representing his Falun Gong practitioner clients, and ordered him to immediately drop the case.
Attorney Li reasoned with various departments, but couldn't get anywhere. Under constant threat of retaliation, he had no choice but to withdraw from the case. The trial is still ongoing. The latest session was held on December 17, 2014, and is to continue on the 18th.