(Minghui.org) The judge responsible for hearing nine practitioners' appeals openly said to their families, “It makes no difference whether you hire a lawyer or not.” True to his word, he has done everything in his power to obstruct the defense attorneys' efforts.

The nine practitioners were illegally sentenced to up to six years of imprisonment on January 27, 2014, for installing satellite dishes capable of receiving uncensored news about China. The practitioners appealed their cases but have been met at every turn with interference from Dalian Intermediate Court officials.

Judge He Yunpo from the intermediate court threatened the families to discontinue their contract with the lawyers at the risk of losing legal counsel entirely. He advised them to spend their money on food for the practitioners in the detention center.

When one of the lawyers, Mr. Zhao Yonglin, went to submit the appeal paperwork on February 26, Judge He told him that his superior had notified him not to accept any paperwork from the lawyers. “Your superior might not know the law, but you do," Mr. Zhao responded. "I urge you to respect the law and do the right thing.”

Another lawyer, Mr. Chen, protested outside the court with a banner that said, “By obstructing lawyers' from filing court papers, Dalian Intermediate Court violates the law,” after Judge He refused to accept the documents on March 3.

The court officers reported the incident to the judge, but he still refused to meet with Mr. Chen or any of the other lawyers.

The practitioners' families and lawyers then asked the Appeals Office to intervene, so the judge and Guo Hui, a court official, had to meet with the lawyers. When they still insisted that the lawyers couldn't represent the practitioners, the lawyers pointed out that they were blatantly obstructing justice.

When lawyers Wang Quanzhang, Cheng Hai, and Wang Xing went to file papers to represent the practitioners on March 4, there were uniformed and plainclothes police stationed everywhere, while more officers were inside four buses parked outside the courthouse. Judge He met with the lawyers and the families, and reiterated that lawyers should not be hired, especially those from the first trial.

Agents from the local police stations and the neighborhood associations also tried to stop the practitioners' families from hiring the lawyers. They said that they were reluctant to do such things, but the court ordered them to do so.

The lawyers haven't been able to visit the practitioners since their sentencing. The detention center authorities claimed that the Intermediate Court ordered them not to allow the lawyers' visits.