(Minghui.org) A married couple from Hegang City, Heilongjiang Province were sentenced last November for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual practice being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party.

Ms. Huang Xiaoxia and her husband Mr. Xu Xianda soon filed an appeal on the grounds that they were exercising their constitutional right in following Falun Gong's principle of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

The higher court, however, ignored evidence of the lower court's legal procedure violations and refused to overturn the verdict. When the defense lawyers filed complaints with the local Procuratorate and the People's Congress the next day, their request to have the relevant judges and prosecutors disciplined was declined.

Lower Court Unlawfully Ejects Lawyer, Issues Secret Verdict

Ms. Huang and Mr. Xu were unlawfully tried at Gongnong District Court on November 27 last year, seven months after their arrest.

During the trial, the judges had one of the couple's defense lawyers removed from the courtroom when he pleaded not guilty for his clients.

A few days later, Ms. Huang was sentenced to three and a half years and Mr. Xu five and a half years. There was no public session to announce the verdict, as required by law. Instead, the couple learned of their sentences at the detention center, where they remain today.

The couple hired two new lawyers to help them with the appeal. The Hegang City Intermediate Court heard their case on February 26 this year. The new lawyers pointed out that the lower court lied in a public notice that the verdict was announced in an open session, when there was none.

The lawyers also raised objections to the same person serving as public prosecutor for both the November trial and the February appeal hearing. The judge, however, denied the lawyers' request to recuse the prosecutor.

Lawyers' Complaints Go Unanswered

Only four family members were allowed to attend the February trial. The remaining seats were occupied by court officials, plainclothes officers, and agents from the 610 Office. This overwhelming police presence is commonly used in trials against Falun Gong practitioners to intimidate their lawyers and families.

Two days after the trial, the two lawyers and the couple's family went to file complaints against both courts with the Hegang City Procuratorate, where they received threats from the staff.

They then went to the lower court to file a complaint against the presiding judge in the first trial, but were again turned away. In the end, they went to Gongnong District People's Congress and managed to submit their complaints there. It is not clear when they can expect a response.

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