(Minghui.org) Staring at the empty gallery, Ms. Luo Lingrong (罗玲蓉) wondered why her children didn't come to her trial. As it turns out, the authorities had deliberately given her daughter misinformation and assured her several times that the trial would be held at a different courthouse.
When Ms. Luo's family arrived at the Jiangyang District Court on January 6, 2015 to attend the trial, they realized there was no trial and they had been deceived, Ms. Luo was actually being tried miles away at a makeshift courtroom in Anfu Detention Center in Naxi, where she had been kept prisoner since her arrest in May 2014.
Ms. Gao Xianying (高贤英) was arrested together with Ms. Luo for practicing Falun Gong, a self-cultivation practice being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party. Unlike Ms. Luo, she was released on bail shortly afterwards due to her health problems. On the day of Ms. Luo's trial, Ms. Gao was forcibly taken from her home and driven to the same detention center to be tried with her friend.
This trial of local Falun Gong practitioners at Anfu Detention Center is nothing new. The judge presiding over this trial, Xu Fanfan (徐翻翻), sentenced two other residents for their practice of Falun Gong at the same detention center.
Judge Xu is known for blatantly violating due process in her prosecution of law-abiding Falun Gong practitioners. She did it again when she presided over the trial of Ms. Luo and Ms. Gao by violating their legal rights.
At Ms. Gao and Ms. Luo's trial on January 6, the court violated many legal procedures. The judge did not inform the practitioners of their right to ask for those who have a conflict of interest to recuse themselves.
The judge and prosecutor colluded with each other, speaking out of earshot of the defendants. She allowed the prosecutor to present evidence, a flier, unverified by the defendants and permitted the prosecutor not to produce any witnesses.
Neither practitioner had hired lawyers. Knowing that, the judge frequently interrupted the practitioners when they defended themselves. The practitioners were not allowed to talk about Falun Gong or their constitutional rights.
The judge told them to wait for their turn to speak. She then quickly announced the adjournment before they had a chance to do so. The practitioners refused to acknowledge the trial and wouldn't sign any document afterward.
Only three of Ms. Gao's family were allowed at the trial. The guards told them that the courtroom was too small. In fact on that day, Ms. Gao's three family members were the only people in the gallery and more than ten empty seats.
Since Ms. Luo's family were deceived, they arrived late for the proceedings. The guards would not let them into the courtroom. When two other people from the local area requested to attend the trial to support Ms. Luo, several men shoved them into separate cars and drove them away. A day before the trial, friends and family who had planned to be at the trial received phone calls threatening them not to go.
Officers from Qiancao Police Station arrested the two practitioners on May 23, 2014. Ms. Lo was locked in a detention center. Ms. Gao was deemed to be physically unfit for the detention center, but instead of releasing her unconditionally, the authorities forced the family to put up bail for her. Officers frequently threatened Ms. Gao's son to take her to the police and admit guilt. Ms. Gao refused to sign the documents each time her son took her.
Prior to the trial, Cao Jiang (曹江), deputy chief of the Domestic Security Division in Jiangyang, and Liu Yong (刘勇), prosecutor from Jaingyang Procuratorate, broke into Ms. Gao's home and asked her or her son to sign indictment document. Ms. Gao refused to acknowledge the persecution of Falun Gong and would not sign.
Cao told her son that signing the indictment was just a formality. “The case is already with the prosecution. It is going to be probation without actual prison time. This is just a formality. The trial is at 9 a.m. and your mother does not even have to be there. I have taken care of it and the trial will be over quickly.”
To dissuade the family from going to the court, about ten men went to Ms. Gao's home the afternoon before the trial. Among them were Fan Changlei (male, 范昌蕾) from Lantian Police Station and Yang Xiaoping (杨晓平) from Dongshengqiao Community. Yang said to Ms. Gao, “We are just checking up on you.”
Despite all these assurances, Ms. Gao was taken for trial the next day.
Ms. Gao, 72, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2006 for refusing to give up her belief in Falun Gong. The authorities put tremendous pressure on her family. In 2009 Ms. Gao was forced to leave home and become destitute to avoid further persecution. The authorities locked up her son, daughter-in-law, and six-year-old grandson in the police station just to force Ms. Gao to turn herself in.
Ms. Luo, 62, was locked in a detention center for nine months because she went to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong in December 2000. After that she was transferred to a brainwashing center for two years. She was locked in solitary confinement around the clock and was given food left by other inmates.
In August 2003 after Ms. Luo's family paid the staff at the brainwashing center, Ms. Lo was released. When she got home, her house had been wrecked and weeds were everywhere. Anything valuable in the house had been taken.