(Minghui.org) An appeals court in Sichuan Province ruled on April 19, 2018, to overturn guilty verdicts against three Falun Gong practitioners. It also ordered the lower court to hold a retrial of the defendants.

Ms. Hua Wanxia, Ms. Zhang Huiqiong, and Ms. Cuideli, all residents of Huili County, were arrested on August 24, 2016, for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. Ms. Cui was released on bail one week later, and the other two women have since been held at Huili County Detention Center.

The first hearing was scheduled for November 17, 2017. Judge Qiu Yun of Huili County Court ordered the defense lawyers, Mr. Lu Tingge (representing Ms. Hua), Ms. Xiong Dongmei (representing Ms. Cui), and Mr. Li Xiongbing (representing Ms. Zhang), to turn in their briefcases and laptops.

The lawyers declined, as no law dictates that they must submit their personal items before they are allowed to represent their clients in court. Judge Qiu immediately adjourned the hearing.

Several bailiffs overheard the lawyers discussing plans to file a complaint against judge Qiu for her illegal demand. They then shoved the lawyers. When Mr. Lu began to record what was going on, the bailiffs struck him. They also confiscated all three lawyers' briefcases, laptops, and cell phones.

Mr. Lu's injuries required a stay at the ICU in the local hospital.

Judge Qiu resumed the hearing on November 30. Because the three lawyers were unable to attend, she appointed three different lawyers for the practitioners.

The practitioners protested the court-appointed lawyers, because the lawyers had been instructed to enter guilty pleas for them. The court-appointed lawyers left the courtroom, and judge Qiu ordered the hearing to go on, even though the practitioners were left without legal representation.

Qiu sentenced all three practitioners to prison on December 28, giving Ms. Cui 3 years and Ms. Hua and Ms. Zhang 3 years and 3 months each.

The practitioners filed appeals with the Liangzhou County Intermediate Court, which ruled on April 19, 2018, to overturn the guilty verdicts. The practitioners are now awaiting retrial.

Lawyers Mr. Lu and Mr. Li visited Huili County court on January 11, 2018, to request the return of their confiscated personal items. Only Mr. Lu was given back his laptop. The two lawyers filed a complaint against judge Qiu the following day, and Huili County Court scheduled a hearing for April 27. The details of the hearing remain to be investigated.

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