(Minghui.org) At the appeal hearing of two Sichuan men sentenced for distributing literature on the persecution of Falun Gong, their defense lawyer reiterated his clients' constitutional right to believe in Falun Gong and to share information about the practice with the public.

He argued that his clients should never have been prosecuted for aspiring to be good people who adhere to Falun Gong's principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in the first place. Moreover, his clients caused no harm to society nor broke any law, hence the charge against them - “sabotaging law enforcement” (a charge often used in China to prosecute Falun Gong practitioners) - was groundless and without legal basis.

The two wrongly accused Falun Gong practitioners, Mr. Ming Shaolin and Mr. Zhang Jun, also testified against the police, the prosecutor's office and court officials for violating due process.

Mr. Zhang explained how the lower court judge revoked his father's legal right to testify for him at his first trial last October, which handed him a four-year prison sentence.

Mr. Ming stated that he was beaten during police interrogation. After he refused to sign a police-prepared “evidence” document, the officer resorted to using Falun Gong materials confiscated from various arrests of other local practitioners as evidence to charge Mr. Ming. One of the officers told him, “You will be released if you pay 30,000 yuan.”

The lawyer requested another investigation of the “evidence” that was used to reach Mr. Ming's four-year sentence. However, the presiding judge cut him off and retorted, “You can report me if you wish! The Complaints Office is right downstairs!”

The public prosecutor threatened to open an investigation of the defense lawyer when he pointed out that another prosecutor involved in the case had committed dereliction of duty.

The defense lawyer and his two clients insisted the original verdict be thrown out as it lacked legal basis. The higher court judge, however, ignored them and adjourned the hearing without overturning the original sentence.

It is not clear what the next legal step the higher court has in store for the two practitioners. From intimidating family members to sabotaging the attorney/client relationship, the court's abuses of the law and the illegal sentences it pronounces, even when no verdict was issued in trial, seem to be representative of how Falun Gong practitioners are treated in China's courts.

The appeal hearing was held on January 14 this year. As the higher court forgot to inform the prosecutor's office of the trial date, the trial was delayed for more than an hour, which was another violated legal procedure, the defense lawyer pointed out.

The presiding judge for this case at the Nanchong City Intermediate Court was Wang Rui. Judges Pu Yongjun and Ma Jianwei were also present. The court clerk was Liu Tianlong. The prosecutor was Luo Shengmao (female). The clerk from the Nanchong City Procuratorate was Chen Cui (female).