(Minghui.org) An intermediate court in Sichuan Province held a joint hearing of four Falun Gong practitioners’ appeal cases on August 11, 2020, after the trial court issued the same prison sentences in a retrial ordered by the higher court.

The two lawyers for the four practitioners entered a not-guilty plea for them. They demanded that the judge in charge of the appeal cases reverse the practitioners’ prison sentences and hold the lower court judge accountable for violating legal procedures and framing their clients.

A fifth practitioner, who was arrested and sentenced along with the four, passed away in early 2019, after possibly being drugged in detention.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

The five practitioners, all residents of Huili County, Sichuan Province in their 60s and 70s, were arrested on January 30, 2016 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong.

Judge Yang Jilan of the Huili County Court convicted all five of them on December 29, 2016. Ms. Ma Lingxian was sentenced to one year and four months; Ms. Luo Jiping, Ms. Song Xiuqiong, and Ms. Zheng Qiong were each sentenced to one year; and Ms. Shen Jiafeng was given one year with one year probation.

After the practitioners appealed the verdicts, the Liangshanzhou Intermediate Court dismissed the original sentences and ordered a retrial by the lower court on May 8, 2017.

The Huili County Court held four hearings, on November 17, 2017, October 26, November 29, and December 25, 2018, respectively, before sentencing the practitioners to the same terms on May 24, 2019. Judge Yang Jilan repeatedly blocked the practitioners’ two lawyers, Li Xiongbing and Lu Tingge, from entering the courtroom, with the excuse that they weren’t allowed to bring bags or laptops, even though the lawyers needed information saved on their laptops to do their job in court. The practitioners thus ended up having none of their own lawyers defending them in the four hearings during the retrial.

The practitioners appealed the sentences again. By the time the Liangshanzhou Intermediate Court heard their appeal cases on August 11, 2020, four and a half years had passed since the practitioners were arrested.

Both Ms. Shen and Ms. Dong had their pensions withheld for one year. The pensions of Ms. Ma, Ms. Zheng, and Ms. Luo are still being withheld at the time of writing.

Ms. Shen developed symptoms of diabetes in the detention center and was given an unusually large amount of drugs. She gradually became paralyzed and was carried into the courtroom during the hearings. She passed away on January 31, 2019, shortly after being released.

Ms. Dong was also force-fed with unknown drugs, and she completely lost her hearing and most of her vision as well.

During the latest hearing in the remaining four practitioners’ appeal cases, their lawyers asked the higher court to reverse the prison sentences and hold judge Yang Jilan accountable for repeatedly blocking the lawyers from defending their clients in court during the retrial.

Judge Yang claimed that she had two court-appointed lawyers for the practitioners during the retrial. Ms. Luo refuted that she had insisted to be represented by lawyer Li, but that judge Yang claimed that lawyer Li’s Power of Attorney was invalid.

Ms. Luo also pointed out that only one court-appointed lawyer attended their hearings, not two as claimed by judge Yang.

Lawyer Li added that according to court documents, lawyer Ruan, appointed by judge Yang, was still an intern and hadn’t received his professional license yet, thus he wasn’t qualified for formal legal representation in court.

Lawyers Li and Lu also accused judge Yang of ordering bailiffs to body search them and confiscate their computers, cellphones, flash-drives, and case documents prior to a court hearing on November 17, 2017. Lawyer Lu was also beaten by the bailiffs.

In addition, judge Yang’s continued blocking of the lawyers from attending the hearings on October 16, November 29, and December 25, 2018, with the excuse that they had bags and computers, had caused significant losses in their travel cost and time.

The two lawyers have filed dozens of complaints with various judiciary agencies in the province and said that their efforts to seek justice and compensation were far from over.

Related reports:

Officers in Sichuan Province Falsified Evidence Against Five Elderly Ladies

Sichuan Province: 5 Elderly Women Tried for Their Faith

Repeated Persecution Suffered by Ms. Dong Xiuqiong from Huili County, Sichuan Province

Lawyers File Complaint Against Court Officials for Allowing Judges to Violate Legal Procedure in Falun Gong Cases