(Minghui.org) Ms. Ma Ling and her daughter Ms. Zhang Ji were tried on November 28, 2014 for practicing Falun Gong.

Ms. Ma, a research fellow at Yunnan University, and Ms. Zhang, a school teacher, were defended by three attorneys: Guo Lianhui, Hu Guiyun and Wang Quanzhang.

They entered a plea of innocence for the mother and daughter and asserted that it is not illegal to practice Falun Gong, a legitimate spiritual belief, in China.

The trial was held by Wuhua District Court in Kunming City, Hunan Province.

Arrested for “Illegally Gathering”

Ms. Ma and Ms. Zhang were visiting five other Falun Gong practitioners in Shilin, Kunming City on April 19, 2014 when 20 police officers broke into the home and arrested them. They also seized Ms. Ma's car.

The officers were dispatched from Beidacun Police Station. When asked to show a warrant, one of the officers replied, “Someone reported you for illegally gathering. My uniform is my warrant to arrest you.”

The police later ransacked Ms. Ma and Ms. Zhang's home without their presence and confiscated Falun Gong pamphlets and other personal belongings.

Ms. Ma and Ms. Zhang were both charged with “illegally possessing Falun Gong materials,” “holding an illegal gathering,” and “illegally participating in Falun Gong activities.”

These charges are commonly used by the Chinese Communist Party to sentence Falun Gong practitioners as part of the regime's nationwide suppression campaign.

Attorneys: No Legal Basis for Charges

During their hearing, Ms. Ma and Ms. Zhang that they had benefited from adhering to Falun Gong's principles of “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.” The defendants argued that it is not a crime to practice Falun Gong and requested that the court play the DVDs the police had confiscated so that the court could assess the materials for themselves.

The practitioners' attorneys detailed violations of criminal procedural code by police and officials:

1. The police had arrested the practitioners without first acquiring any evidence of illegal activity.

2. The police did not allow the attorneys visit the practitioners. This deprived both the attorneys' and the practitioners' right to meet and prepare a defense.

3. The charges against the practitioners have no basis in Chinese law, as no applicable criminal law states that practicing Falun Gong is illegal. Therefore, it is not illegal to be in possession of Falun Gong materials, or to gather for or participate in Falun Gong activities.The attorneys stated that freedom of belief is guaranteed by China's Constitution, and that no one should be punished for their belief that brings no harm to society.

Sentenced to Forced Labor for Beliefs

Prior to this trial, Ms. Ma had been arrested and detained many times for practicing Falun Gong.

She had been twice sentenced to forced labor and held at labor camps for a total of five years and seven months. During her incarceration, Yunnan University suspended her wages, canceled her housing allowance, medical insurance, and unemployment insurance.

After her release and returne to the university, she appealed to the authorities regarding her mistreatment but did not receive a response.