(Minghui.org) Two pretrial hearings were held on April 25 and June 8, 2017, respectively, in preparation for a joint trial against 12 Fushun City residents arrested for their faith. The defense lawyers requested that the presiding judge seek justice for their clients.

Lu Qing, Hu Fengqiu, Xu Guirong, Zhang Guiping, Liu Fengjuan, Li Mingyu, Qin Zengyun, Pan Fude, Dong Weirong, Jiang Shun'ai, Li Gang and Li Yanrong were arrested on July 22, 2016 for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. They remain at Nangou Detention Center.

The practitioners hired a total of nine lawyers to represent them. The lawyers expressed the following opinions at the two pretrial hearings:

1. The court system has no jurisdiction over the case because the practitioners were arrested for their spiritual faith.

2. The practitioners were charged with “using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese communist regime to frame and imprison Falun Gong practitioners. However, no law in China ever identified Falun Gong as a cult.

3. The judges and prosecutors, who are atheist Chinese communist party members, are unfit to prosecute Falun Gong practitioners - who believe in the existence of gods - and should thus be recused.

4. The indictments contain false evidence against the practitioners, who said they never distributed Falun Gong materials on the day alleged by the prosecutors.

5. The tipsters who reported the practitioners, the arresting officers, and the police who conducted the interrogation sessions should all be present in court to face cross examination.

6. The hearing must be open to the public without limitations on the number of attendees.

7. The trial should be held in the local courthouse instead of the detention center as scheduled.

Judge Tian Hao of the Dongzhou District Court presided over both hearings, which excluded attendance of the practitioners’ family members. During the second hearing, the court president and four agents from the local domestic security office and political and legal affairs committee suddenly showed up when they had no reason to be there. Some lawyers protested, and Tian recessed the session briefly. When he resumed the meeting, those five people had left.

The lawyers reiterated their request to see the judge follow the law to prosecute their clients. It is unclear though whether the trial ever took place after the two pretrial hearings.

Related Report: Fushun Police Bring Charges Against 12 Practitioners for the Third Time