(Minghui.org) An appeals court in Suihua City, Heilongjiang Province, assigned the same judge who sentenced seven Falun Gong practitioners for their faith to hear their appeals. The defense lawyers protested the judge assignment, and the higher court recently decided to replace the trial court judge who had indicated he'd uphold the verdicts without a hearing.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since July 1999.
The seven Falun Gong practitioners from Suihua, including Mr. Yang Chuanhou, Ms. Wang Fang, Ms. Wang Fuhua, Ms. Bai Xia, Ms. Zhao Tingting, Ms. Song Hongwei and Ms. Gao Jinshu, were sentenced to one to two years in prison by Anda Court on May 24, 2019.
The Suihua City Intermediate Court accepted the practitioners' appeals on June 19 and assigned Jiao Hongtao, the judge from the trial court who sentenced the practitioners, to handle the appeals cases.
The practitioners' eight lawyers filed a motion to Ma Guo, the president of the intermediate court, requesting Judge Jiao be recused due to the obvious conflict of interest.
The intermediate court informed the lawyers on August 10 that it would recuse Judge Jiao. While the replacement judge hasn't been decided at the time of writing, the court has been urging the lawyers to submit their defense arguments so it can close the cases quickly without an open hearing as requested by the practitioners.