Questionable Prosecution Evidence and Procedural Violations at Trial of Hebei Couple Accused of Hanging up Falun Gong Banners
(Minghui.org) A married couple in Qinhuangdao City appeared in court seven months after police suspected them of hanging up banners with messages about Falun Gong. Their attorney and non-lawyer defender refuted the charges against them and testified against the law enforcement and judicial system for violating legal procedures in prosecuting their clients.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice based on meditation and the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. After the Chinese communist party began to persecute the practice in July 1999 with violence and hate propaganda, a large number of practitioners have been arrested, detained, and tortured for their belief.
Mr. Wei Qishan and Ms. Yu Shurong, who run a milk delivery service business, were arrested on June 12, 2018 after police alleged that they were the ones seen in a surveillance video putting up Falun Gong banners one month earlier. The couple stood trial on December 19 and is awaiting the next hearing scheduled for January 8, 2019.
Practitioners Not Notified of Own Court Date in Advance
Changli Court had originally planned to hold the hearing on November 23, but it postponed the hearing upon protest from the couple's non-lawyer defender, who was a family member appointed by the practitioners to defend them. The defender argued that the court failed to notify the couple of the hearing in advance as required by law.
When the couple's family arrived at the courthouse on December 19, they found that the hearing had been relocated to a juvenile mediation room, which only allowed six of them to enter due to its small size.
The presiding judge refused to change the room even though there were bigger rooms available, and the family contacted the mayor's office as well as the court's supervising agencies, none of which was willing to get involved due to pressure from the 610 Office.
The hearing was held in the juvenile mediation room the whole morning before being moved to a bigger room in the afternoon upon the couple's family's continued protest.
Baseless Charges and Shaky Prosecution Evidence
Mr. Wei and Ms. Yu were charged with “using a cult organization to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese communist regime in its attempt to frame and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.
The couple's attorney and defender argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong or labels it a cult. The prosecutor cited a cult list issued by the Ministry of Public Security, a non-judicial agency, and the defender countered that Falun Gong was not on the list.
One piece of prosecution evidence was a video showing two people with face masks putting up Falun Gong banners. Mr. Wei and Ms. Yu argued that the video itself failed to prove the two people seen in the video were them. Moreover, they testified that police had initially accused them of hanging up one banner, but that number was upped to three banners in the indictment.
The prosecutor alleged that the Falun Gong books and informational materials confiscated from the couple's home was evidence that they broke the law. The lawyer argued that their clients' possession of Falun Gong books was totally legal and caused no harm to anyone, much less undermine law enforcement. Moreover, the couple was simply following Falun Gong principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance to become better citizens. As such, they should never have been prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of belief, as protected by the Chinese Constitution.
The lawyer pointed out that one of the confiscated items was a book discussing how former communist party leader Jiang Zemin abused his power to persecute Falun Gong practitioners. Chinese citizens are entitled to learn about government officials' abuse of power.
Both the attorney and defender also pointed out numerous procedural violations in the case.
The prosecutor stated that the couple were arrested at home, when in fact they were seized outside their apartment building as they were unloading equipment used for milk delivery. The police did not present IDs or a search warrant during the arrest and subsequent home raid. The couple's detention caused over 100,000 yuan of financial loss to their family and interrupted their milk delivery service.
The police ransacked the couple's home, but didn't ask them or their family members to sign the list of confiscated items as required by law.
The prosecution evidence was not authenticated by independent third-party forensic evidence validation agencies. Therefore, the evidence should be inadmissible.
The judge didn't acquit the couple as requested and instead scheduled a new hearing for January 8, 2019.