(Minghui.org) Eight residents in Changsha County, Hunan Province have been given prison sentences for handing out free MP5 players with pre-installed audio and video files exposing the persecution of Falun Gong.

As all legal channels of protest are deliberately closed to Falun Gong practitioners, they rely on alternative means, including the use of MP5 players, to inform the public of the Chinese Communist Party's attack on their spiritual belief.

The verdict was announced during the third hearing of the defendants on April 29. The Changsha County Court did not notify the families or the defense lawyers of the sentencing hearing.

During the first two hearings held this January and February, respectively, the defense lawyers reiterated that China's law-making body, People's Congress, has never enacted any law criminalizing Falun Gong; hence the persecution of the practice has been illegal from the onset. Moreover, it is their clients' constitutional right to believe in and spread information about Falun Gong.

Both the defendants and the lawyers also questioned the judges' admission of an explanatory note issued by the local 610 Office – an extra legal agency established with the sole purpose of carrying out the Party's persecution of Falun Gong.

The note affirmed the legality of the police interrogation of the defendants through torture and the police confiscation of personal items seized from the practitioners' homes and workplaces.

The judges and the public prosecutor repeatedly dodged the question of why such a note was allowed to be used as prosecution evidence against the practitioners since the 610 Office has no legal authority.

Nevertheless, the court still convicted the eight practitioners during the third hearing. The sentencing details are as follows:

Ms. Yan Hong, Mr. Li Xuangang, Ms. Zhang Lige, and Ms. Zhang Xinqi: Three and a half yearsMs. Liu Chunxia: Three years and three monthsMr. Guan Deyang: Three years and two monthsMr. Zhou Deyuan and Mr. Yao Dahua: Three years

At the time of writing, all eight practitioners have filed appeals against the unjust verdict and sentences.

The following court staff signed on the verdict:

Presiding judge: Luo Lingli (罗伶俐)Judges: Chen Shuzi (陈树滋) and Wang Bingmei(王兵煤)Clerks: Li Li (利莉) and Zhang Su(张素)

Related reports:Eight Hunan Residents Charged with Intercepting TV SignalsLawyers Threatened, Practitioner Beaten in TV Signal Interception CaseDefense Lawyers Again Demand Acquittal for Practitioners