(Minghui.org) Five Falun Gong practitioners were illegally arrested on July 24, 2016 while they were distributing informational materials about the persecution of the Falun Gong traditional spiritual discipline. They and their families have been subject to severe harassment by the authorities since then.

Those arrested are Ms. Deng Cuiping, Mr. Pu Zhiming, Ms. Li Qiongzhen, Ms. Qin Liyuan, and Ms. Li Li. They were arrested by officers from Eshan County. The Eshan County Procuratorate issued warrants for the arrests more than a month after the practitioners were arrested, on September 1.

When family members and friends tried to request the practitioners' release by going to the Eshan County Procuratorate and the Domestic Security Division, they were harassed, attacked, and sent away. They were told to send lawyers to deal with their loved ones' cases.

When family members went to the Domestic Security Division, officers made video recordings of them and threatened to arrest them for talking about Falun Gong in a public area. In addition, they were not allowed to mention anything related to Falun Gong, former president Jiang Zemin, or President Xi Jinping.

Four of the five families have now hired lawyers.

On December 14, all five practitioners were charged by the Eshan County Procuratorate, and their cases were transferred to the Eshan County Court.

The Eshan County Court originally planned to hold a trial on January 11, 2017, but canceled just a few days before the scheduled date. The new trial date is still unknown.

Ms. Deng's and Ms. Qin's families filed requests for bail, but they were both denied.

Ms. Li's husband has injured his leg and is home-bound. With Ms. Li in detention, there is no one to take care of him. The Public Prosecution Division Chief of the Procuratorate told Ms. Li's husband to “get a divorce and find a new wife.” When her husband and daughter visited her at the detention center during the 2016 Mid-autumn Festival, Ms. Li told her husband, “I am willing to get a divorce.” It was apparent to them that she had been threatened and pressured in the detention center.

During the six months of their incarceration, all five practitioners were interrogated constantly. They were told that if they signed a guarantee letter, they would be immediately released. Under the intense pressure, three of the five signed the guarantee not to practice Falun Gong. However, none of them have been released.

After the trial was delayed, two of the practitioners who signed the letters were interrogated even more intensely by the deputy chief of the Eshan County Court, Bo Weiliang. He tried to deceive the practitioners into pleading guilty by telling them that he would, “reduce the length of the prison sentence,” or that, “they could go home for the Chinese New Year.”

Bo also threatened Ms. Li's family and ordered them to fire their lawyer. After they signed the termination document, it was taken by Bo, and they could not rescind it.

In trying to free their loved ones, the most common words that the family members heard from law-enforcement staff were, “Don't mention the case. Don't discuss the law with us. Don't mention Falun Gong. We just want to keep our jobs!”