Woman Forced to Drop Defense Lawyers, Family and Supporters Barred from Courtroom
(Minghui.org) A woman in Hegang City, Heilongjiang Province was tried without legal representation on December 5, four and a half months after her arrest for practicing and disseminating information about Falun Gong.
The Xing'an District Court blocked Ms. Zhao Yongjie's (赵永杰) family members and friends from attending the trial, claiming that all permits had been handed out.
Ms. Zhao Coerced into Dropping Lawyers
Not long after Ms. Zhao's arrest on July 15 this year, her mother, who is in her 70s, went to the Hegang City 610 Office to request her release. Hou Changchun, Zhang Zilong and Ai Hongwu from the 610 Office detained the elderly woman for a whole morning before releasing her in the afternoon.
The same group of 610 Office agents also worked with court president Yang Zhongxing to pressure Ms. Zhao into dropping her two lawyers, who were denied access to her case documents.
Yang Zhongxing brought Ms. Zhao's husband and son to visit her, threatening to create problems at her workplace if she refused to drop her lawyers. Her son was adamant in keeping the lawyers to provide a strong defense for Ms. Zhao.
Ms. Zhao, however, became hesitant as she didn't want to see her loved ones implicated by her arrest. She eventually signed and fingerprinted the document to formally terminate her legal representation.
Supporters Barred from the Courthouse
When Ms. Zhao's family members and friends arrived at the courthouse on December 5, they were told that no more audience permits were available. To their surprise, numerous staff members of street committees from various neighborhoods came to attend the trial and were allowed into the courtroom.
Some of Ms. Zhao's supporters overheard the street committee people talking about how they got permits. The court had given permits to different street committees so that they could fill all the seats, leaving no room for Ms. Zhao's family and friends.
Ai Hongwu and Zhang Zilong from the 610 Office went around to tally how many Falun Gong practitioners were there. When Ms. Zhao's supporters went to the next-door town hall to keep warm, Ai Hongwu followed them there to continue monitoring them.