(Minghui.org) Two sisters in Tongwei County were sentenced to prison on December 8, 2017 for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. They filed an appeal to the Dingxi City Intermediate Court, which ruled on December 5, 2017 to uphold the guilty verdict.

How was it possible that the appeals court issue a decision three days before the trial court delivered a verdict? The sisters’ families and lawyer didn’t think the December 5th date was a clerical mistake. They believe it reflected a fact in the prosecution of Falun Gong practitioners – that China’s court system is just a rubber stamp to deliver pre-determined prison sentences against practitioners.

The lawyer for Ms. Niu Bianbian, 52, and her younger sister, Ms. Niu Bianzi, in her 40s, requested that the appeals court re-open the case and hold a public hearing. He mailed the request to judge Zhang Yudong around February 2018. Zhang signed the mail receipt and promised to get back to the lawyer.

Zhang called the sisters’ families on March 5, 2018, urging them to submit the lawyer’s written defense arguments. He denied having received the lawyer’s request and hinted at his intent to avoid holding a public hearing.

Ms. Niu Bianbian remains in detention since she and her sister were arrested on March 8, 2017. The local Procuratorate had twice returned the sisters’ case, but the police managed to get them indicted months later. The sisters were tried on November 21, 2017 and convicted on December 8, with Ms. Niu Bianbian sentenced to 1.5 years and Ms. Niu Bianzi to 1 year. Ms. Niu Bianzi, who had been out on bail, was taken back into custody the day before the verdict was handed down.

Both sisters were abused and tortured shortly after their arrest. Ms. Niu Bianbian was hit on the face with a hardcover book. The swelling on her face didn’t subside until more than twenty days later. The police also pricked her and her sister’s fingers with needles. Their family is worried about the two being subjected to more torture.

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