(Minghui.org) Ten Cangzhou City residents were sentenced to prison right before the New Year for "using a cult to undermine law enforcement," a standard pretext used by the Chinese Communist regime in its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

The practitioners were arrested at a private gathering in August 2014 and tried jointly from November 9 to 24, 2015. They were given sentences ranging from 17 months to 6 years at the end of December. They have all appealed the verdict.

During the trial, their lawyers emphasized that the persecution of Falun Gong lacks any legal basis because China's lawmaking body, the People's Congress, has never enacted any law criminalizing the practice.

Although the practitioners testified that the evidence was extracted through deceit and torture, the judge refused to dismiss the fabricated evidence or to investigate charges of police brutality.

Authorities Attempt to Prevent Lawyers from Representing Practitioners

The practitioners' families hired a total of 12 lawyers following the arrests. When the lawyers demanded the practitioners' cases be dismissed, the local 610 Office ordered Cangzhou Justice Bureau to prevent the lawyers from representing their clients. The bureau, in turn, tried to pressure the lawyers and their law firms to turn down the cases, which most of the lawyers refused to do.

During the trial, the chief of the Henan Province Justice Bureau showed up in the courtroom to intimidate the lawyers from Henan. Court officials also harassed the lawyers, ordering them to turn in their phones and briefcases.

Presiding Judge Refuses to Dismiss Fabricated Evidence

Head judge Ma Yongcheng used different tactics to prevent the lawyers and practitioners from speaking. Ma also refused to look into the practitioners' claims of police brutality and that the evidence against them was fabricated.

The prosecution presented a statement purportedly signed by Mr. Chang Shouxuan, which said that he was willing to give up the practice. The statement was used as evidence that he was a Falun Gong practitioner. Mr. Chang is 73 years old and cannot see well or write properly. He claimed that he never wrote the statement or signed it. His lawyer demanded that the handwriting be verified, but the judge denied the request.

The police had ransacked Ms. Li Li's home and confiscated her belongings. At the trial, the prosecution, instead of presenting the actual items as evidence, played a video showing her belongings and claimed that the items came from her husband's car. When the defense lawyer asked the prosecutor to produce the video recording of the authorities collecting the evidence, the judge refused to allow it.

Mr. Hou Dongliang claimed that Li Yi, a police officer from Yunhe District Domestic Security Division, beat him and made threats concerning his grandfather's safety to extract a confession from him. The judge didn't accept his testimony.

Ms. Liu Lixin claimed that a policeman with that last name of Jia tortured her during interrogation. When her lawyer asked to cross-examine officer Jia, the prosecution refused to produce him and the judge did not object.

Ms. Zhao Xiang claimed that officer Li Yi tortured her during the interrogation and threatened to kill her if she did not confess. Her lawyer asked the judge to look into her accusation, but the judge refused to do so.

Judge Bans the Words “Falun Gong” in Court

When the lawyers were refuting the prosecutor's accusations, the judge repeatedly interrupted. The lawyers were unable to complete their arguments because of the frequent interruptions.

In the end, the judge banned the use of the words “Falun Gong” and “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance” in his courtroom. He also didn't allow different lawyers to use the same argument to defend their clients.

A month after the trial, Ms. Li Li (李丽) was sentenced to six years; Mr. Chang Shouxuan (常寿轩) and Ms. Tang Jianying (唐建英) to 20 months each; Mr. Xu Kai (徐凯) to 18 months; and Ms. Kang Lanying (康兰英), Ms. Zhao Xiang (赵翔), Ms. Liu Lixin (刘立新), Ms. Zhao Junru (赵俊如), Ms. Cao Yanxiang (曹延香), and Mr. Hou Dongliang (侯东亮) to 17 months each.

Background on the Mass Arrest

A dozen plainclothes officers arrested 42 Falun Gong practitioners in Cangzhou City at a private gathering on August 17, 2014. The police detained 10 of them. Nine have been detained since their arrest. Ms. Tang Jianying was released on bail at one point, but was re-arrested and charged.

When the Yunhe District Procuratorate refused to indict the practitioners due to the lack of evidence, the police began to fabricate evidence against them. About two weeks later, on January 16, 2015, the police re-submitted the cases to the procuratorate, which eventually agreed to prosecute the practitioners. The local court followed up with the November trial.

Previous Reports:

Forty-two Practitioners Arrested at Private Gathering in Cangzhou, Hebei Province

Imprisoned Falun Gong Practitioners from Hebei Province and Tianjin Sue Jiang Zemin

Cangzhou 610 Office Interferes with Lawyers Representing Falun Gong Practitioners

Lawyers Request Dismissal of Falun Gong Cases – Authorities Fail to Respond

4,300 Signatures Collected: “We Know These Practitioners Are Innocent, We Must Help Them!”

Eight Practitioners Charged for “Stubbornness” in Their Beliefs