Higher Court Orders Retrial of Falun Gong Practitioner Who was Sentenced Without Legal Representation
(Minghui.org) An intermediate court in Guan County recently overturned the guilty verdict against a local resident who had been sentenced for her faith, on the grounds that the court failed to inform her lawyer of the hearing as required by law.
Ms. Ni Ruju was arrested on October 28, 2015, for sending out information related to Falun Gong on cell phones. The Procuratorate returned her case to the police department in May 2016, citing insufficient evidence.
The police soon gathered more “evidence” against her and re-submitted her case to the Procuratorate.
Ms. Ni’s family hired a well-known human rights lawyer, Mr. Zhang Zanning, to defend her constitutional right to freedom of belief, as there are no laws in China that criminalize Falun Gong.
Chen Yanmin, the public prosecutor in charge of the case, personally accepted Ms. Ni’s power of attorney when Mr. Zhang visited the Procuratorate to review her case file.
The police showed up at Ms. Ni's home three times, and tried without success to pressure her family into dropping the lawyer.
The Guan County Court tried Ms. Ni on June 15 without notifying her attorney. She herself didn’t realize she was about to be tried until she was brought to the courtroom.
When she questioned why her lawyer wasn’t present, prosecutor Chen claimed that Mr. Zhang hadn’t provided the required defense arguments.
The lawyer inquired about her case five days after the trial and was told that the court had not received her power of attorney, and thus assumed that she didn’t have a lawyer.
Ms. Ni was sentenced to a two-year prison term on July 20, 2016.
She filed an appeal with the Liaocheng City Intermediate Court. Mr. Zhang met with judge Wang Yali of the higher court, who agreed that the trial court had indeed violated legal procedure.
The Intermediate Court issued a decision on September 22, nullifying the lower court's verdict against Ms. Ni and ordering a re-trial, allowing Mr. Zhang to represent her in court.