(Minghui.org) A woman in Heyuan City was sentenced to prison for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. The local appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial. The lower court handed down the same prison sentence after retrial, and the higher court upheld the guilty verdict without holding a hearing as requested.

More than two dozen agents pried open Ms. Deng Shi’e door on September 24, 2016 and arrested her. She was tried on January 20, 2017, with her lawyer and family barred from attending the hearing. Dongyuan County Court soon sentenced her to two years and three months in prison.

Ms. Deng appealed, and Heyuan City Intermediate Court ruled on April 11 to overturn her verdict and ordered a retrial.

Dongyuan County Court held the first hearing of the retrial on June 16. Dozens of police cars parked outside the courthouse. One officer lied to Ms. Deng’s family, telling them that she didn’t want them to attend her hearing. Her loved ones knew that was not true and asked to go inside. Only two of them, though, were allowed to enter the courtroom.

Prosecutor Wu Wenzhen read aloud Ms. Deng’s alleged crimes, and her two lawyers refuted the baseless charges. They argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong and that Ms. Deng should never have been arrested for exercising her constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Judge Li Yihua stopped the lawyers, “We’re not going to talk about the validity of the charges. We can discuss it after the hearing.” The lawyers objected, as the validity of the indictment was key to defending their client.

The lawyers asked why Ms. Deng kept practicing Falun Gong, and she replied that Falun Gong returned her to health and taught her to be a good person. Judge Li stopped her from continuing and adjourned the hearing shortly afterwards.

When the hearing resumed on July 7, judge Li sentenced Ms. Deng to two years and three months, the same punishment he gave out during the initial trial. He further fined Ms. Deng 5,000 yuan.

Ms. Deng filed an appeal again and requested a public hearing. Heyuan City Intermediate Court ruled recently to uphold the verdict of the retrial, without holding any additional hearings.

Ms. Deng’s lawyers wrote to the higher court on September 5, accusing the agency of violating legal procedures by issuing a ruling without holding a hearing as requested.

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