(Minghui.org) An elderly man was taken from his son’s home for keeping his faith. He was tried with illegally-obtained evidence that had no direct link to the crime he was charged with and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The authorities then tried to get his son to talk him out of filing an appeal. He was not deterred and is seeking to have his sentence overturned.

Mr. Guan Zhongji, 66, was arrested on June 5, 2018, because he practiced Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline severely persecuted in China.

There was never an arrest warrant issued for Mr. Guan. The police claimed that the arrest was a continuance of a case against him four years ago, for which he never received a ruling.

Mr. Guan was arrested in 2014 for telling people about Falun Gong and the persecution. The police took his house keys and ransacked his home while no one was home. According to Mr. Guan’s son, the family was told about the arrest and the illegal search a few days after.

Mr. Guan’s lawyer stated that China’s criminal law stipulates that a person or his family must be present if authorities do a house search and must be presented with a search warrant. The lawyer stated that the evidence against Mr. Guan was the result of an illegal search and Mr. Guan should be considered innocent.

Mr. Guan’s cousin asked to visit him in the detention center two weeks after the latest arrest and the police told her that the case was with the local court and out of their hands.

Visits to Mr. Guan must be approved by the local 610 Office, an agency that oversees the persecution of Falun Gong. His lawyer finally saw Mr. Guan 17 days after the arrest; at the time Mr. Guan still had not been told the reason for his arrest. He had severe hypertension and the guards force fed him unknown drugs that made him vomit.

His trial was held inside the detention center by a judge from Pingdu City Court. It lasted for an hour on July 3 and no verdict was issued after the hearing. Seeing his father wearing shackles and handcuffs, Mr. Guan’s son described him as having lost a lot of weight and looking lethargic. Mr. Guan asked to be released without any charges, for he only wanted people to know about Falun Gong, a right protected by freedom of speech and religion.

Mr. Guan was charged with “using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law.” His lawyer argued that the evidence provided by the prosecution, including Falun Gong literature found in his home from the illegal search, offered no direct link to the crime charged.

China has never enacted a law deeming Falun Gong a “cult.” A new statutory interpretation took effect on February 1, 2017, which made no mention of Falun Gong and emphasized that any indictment against anyone engaging in a cult must be based on solid legal grounds. Since no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult, the indictment against the practitioners lacks legal basis.

One of the pieces of prosecution evidence against Mr. Guan was his possession, reading, and dissemination of Falun Gong books. The police and prosecutors cited as legal basis two notices issued by China's Administration of Press and Publications in July 1999 to ban the publication of Falun Gong books. But the Administration issued a repeal of the ban in 2011 and it was fully legal for practitioners to own Falun Gong books.

The judge called the son a few days before the trial and suggested his father plead guilty. The judge also claimed that it was the 610 Office that pushed for the arrest and trial.

Ten days after the trial on July 13, Mr. Guan received a guilty verdict and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Shortly afterwards, his son was repeatedly told by various authorities to visit his father in the detention center and try to talk him out of an appeal. The authorities claimed that the heavy sentence of Mr. Guan was a result of him hiring a lawyer and making a not-guilty plea.

Despite the threats, Mr. Guan filed an appeal and submitted the petition on July 23.

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