(Minghui.org) A higher court in Maoming City issued a decision to uphold guilty verdicts against four local residents without holding hearings.

Mr. Ke Zhengji, Ms. Xie Yilan, Mr. Mai Zhizhong, and Ms. Li Suming were arrested on November 19, 2015 for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.

They were tried on September 13, 2016 and sentenced to prison on September 29 by Judge Li Zhiqiang of Maonan District Court. Mr. Mai was given 7 years and fined 20,000 yuan; Mr. Ke was given 6 years and fined 15,000 yuan; Ms. Xie was given 5 years and fined 10,000 yuan; and Ms. Li was given 3 years and fined 5,000 yuan.

Mr. Ke hired Mr. Zhang Zanning to help with his appeal, and Ms. Xie hired Mr. Yu Wensheng. The two lawyers submitted a request for open hearings to the Maoming City Intermediate Court in early November. They received a phone call and a written notice from judge Luo Wen on November 11.

Luo said that the higher court had no intention of holding any open hearings and instructed the lawyers to submit their written defense arguments.

Mr. Zhang and Mr. Yu submitted a request to have all the judges involved in the case recused, because by law the higher court should have honored defendants’ wish to have open hearings. The lawyers felt that the judges had lost their impartiality in dealing with Falun Gong cases.

Mr. Zhang also called Luo to protest his unreasonable decision, but the latter insisted on no hearings.

Li Zhiqiang, the trial court judge who gave the four practitioners prison terms, visited Maoming City First Detention Center on December 1 to deliver the higher court’s decision to uphold the original verdicts. He refused to provide a copy of the decision to the practitioners’ families or lawyers.

Mr. Ke’s family received a phone call from the detention center on December 6, asking them to visit him. But the guards called again hours later, saying there was no more need for such a visit.

Sihui Prison called the family the next day, informing them that Mr. Ke had been admitted to prison. The family was asked to wait for the prison notice before they could visit him.

Related Reports:Four Guangdong Residents Sentenced to Prison for Their Faith

Maoming City: Four Falun Gong Practitioners' Homes Raided, Ten Arrested

Family Members and Supporters Blocked from Court Hearing