(Minghui.org) A court in Rizhao City sentenced four local residents and fined two others on January 15, 2019 for either practicing or supporting Falun Gong.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a mind-body discipline persecuted by the communist regime since 1999.

Ms. Gong Hua and Ms. Qu Zhengrong were both sentenced to three years in prison. Ms. Sun Ping received a two-year term. Mr. Wang Yanzhou was sentenced to one year in prison with one year probation. Ms. Gong and Ms. Sun have appealed to Rizhao City Intermediate Court against their verdicts.

Ms. Qu's sister, Ms. Qu Zhenghua, is also a Falun Gong practitioner like the aforementioned four. She and her husband, Mr. Yao Yonglun, who does not practice but is supportive of Falun Gong, were acquitted of criminal charges and each fined 3,000 and 2,000 yuan instead. The couple was released after the sentencing hearing.

The six Rizhao City residents were arrested between February 2 and 3, 2018 and sent to Rizhao City Detention Center. The police beat and verbally abused them during interrogation.

The Donggang District Procuratorate approved the arrests of Ms. Gong, Ms. Sun and Ms. Qu Zhengrong on March 9 and they remained at Rizhao City Detention Center.

The other three people were forced to pay 3,000 yuan before being released on bail.

The police initially submitted the six cases to Donggang District Procuratorate, which then transferred them to Wulian County Procuratorate on August 6, following a rule by Shandong Province High Court to consolidate Falun Gong cases to regional procuratorates and courts.

Wulian County Procuratorate indicted the six individuals and moved their cases to Wulian County Court on October 18.

The court held two hearings of the six defendants on November 29, 2018 and January 8, 2019. Two lawyers entered a not-guilty plea for Ms. Gong and Ms. Sun. The practitioners also defended themselves and argued that it's their constitutional rights of freedom of belief and speech that guarantees their right to practice Falun Gong and share it with others.

The judge announced the verdicts one week later on January 15.

Related report:

Falun Gong Case Rejected by Procuratorate for the Second Time