(Minghui.org) Four women aged 69 to 80 were recently sentenced to two to four years in prison for gathering to read Falun Gong teachings.

The four women, all residents from Tongling City, Anhui Province, were arrested on March 24, 2018 while reading the books of Falun Gong together. It was reported that the police had been monitoring them for weeks before arresting them.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

The police ransacked the practitioners' homes and confiscated their Falun Gong books and materials. All of them were put under criminal detention. Their arrests were approved by the Shizishan District Procuratorate on April 28.

Although the practitioners were released on bail on June 20, the police re-arrested them in July and sent them to a brainwashing center, where they were subjected to intensive brainwashing as a way to try to force them to give up practicing Falun Gong. The four practitioners remained firm in their belief.

The Shizishan District Court tried the four practitioners on November 28, 2018. They didn't have legal representation and all defended their own innocence. The judge sentenced them to prison at the end of the trial.

Ms. Ye Ronggui, 80, was sentenced to four years and fined 4,000 yuan; Ms. Wang Xiangzhi, 70, was sentenced to three years and ten months; Ms. Fang Xiaotao, in her 70s, was given three years, and Ms. Meng Dexiu, 69, received two years. Ms. Wang, Ms. Fang, and Ms. Meng were also each fined 3,000 yuan.

Prior to their latest sentencing, Ms. Wang was sentenced to seven months and fined 1,000 yuan by the same court in 2016 for talking to people about Falun Gong; Ms. Ye and Ms. Fang were arrested in 2016 and 2017, respectively, also for talking to people about Falun Gong, but their 15 and 7 days of detention were waived due to their advanced age.

It is not clear whether the four women would serve time inside or outside the prison.