(Minghui.org) A woman was seized last May during a mass arrest of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice persecuted in China since 1999. When she appeared in court for the third time, the local court didn't inform her lawyer and family. The lawyer found out days after the trial that the authorities had told her that her lawyer had stopped representing her.

Ms. Zhang Guirong from Qitaihe City is among the 12 Falun Gong practitioners arrested on May 8, 2016. Since then she has been incarcerated and tortured in Qitaihe Detention Center. The police ransacked Ms. Zhang's apartment after her arrest, and confiscated cash and personal belongings.

Her lawyer later sent out official documents requesting the prosecution to release her on bail pending trial, and to exclude the illegally obtained evidence. The requests were ignored.

Meeting Before First Hearing

The presiding judge of Taoshan District Court asked Ms. Zhang's lawyer to meet with him a day before the first hearing. At the meeting the lawyer learned that Ms. Zhang was threatened and verbally abused during an interrogation that lasted 14 hours, and she was without food and water. After the judge refused to produce the video when the police ransacked her apartment, the lawyer demanded the police be questioned during the trial.

First Hearing

Ms. Zhang appeared in court for the first time on December 29, 2016. At the beginning of the hearing, her lawyer requested the prosecutor be recused. He suspected the prosecutor of protecting the police who allegedly stole from Ms. Zhang during the ransacking. He accused the prosecutor of failing to answer his earlier requests for Ms. Zhang's bail and the eviction of illegal evidence.

Ms. Zhang's family later sued the police for theft.

The court authorities asked Ms. Zhang and her family to fire the lawyer and entere a guilty plea. They also pressured the lawyer to stop representing Ms. Zhang.

Meeting Before the Second Hearing

Ms. Zhang's lawyer met with the judge a day before Ms. Zhang’s second court date. The lawyer refused to be searched by security, and hence had to talk to the judge outside of the security line. The judge asked him not to question the evidence presented in court, an unusual request to be made of a defense lawyer.

The lawyer met with Ms. Zhang the same afternoon and learned that she wasn't notified of the trial, which was supposed to have been given three days prior to the trial.

Second Hearing

Shortly before the second hearing on January 10, the judge called Ms. Zhang's lawyer. He told the lawyer that the trial would be moved to the detention center where Ms. Zhang was held, instead of an open trial.

Because the lawyer refused to be searched by security, he was unable to get into the detention center. Later he saw the court staff leaving, followed by the judge. The judge said that there wouldn't be a trial. Ms. Zhang had told the lawyer the day before that she refused to be tried if she wasn't represented by counsel.

The authorities later would not let the lawyer meet with Ms. Zhang, and told him that he must make an appointment and be approved by the court before any visit.

Secret Third Hearing

When the lawyer finally got to meet with Ms. Zhang on January 18, he learned that she had been tried five days prior. She went through the trial because the court staff told her that the court had removed her lawyer as her counsel and that he no longer represented her.

A staff member at the detention center interrupted the conversation, claiming that the chief of the district court forbade Ms. Zhang from meeting with a legal representative. Two men then forcibly removed Ms. Zhang from the meeting.

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