Four Sanhe City, Hebei Province, residents recently filed complaints against the head of the local 610 Office (an organisation of special agents just for persecuting Falun Gong) and court officials for sentencing them to prison on trumped-up charges and interfering with their appeals.
Sentenced for Exposing the Persecution of Falun Gong
The three men and one woman were sentenced on November 5th, 2015, after five hearings riddled with violations of legal procedure on the part of the police, the court, and the procuratorate.
Mr. Wang Zhanqing, Ms. Wen Jie, Mr. Ma Weishan, and Mr. Kang Jingtai were arrested on April 22nd, 2014, for sending group text messages detailing the persecution of Falun Gong. Following instructions from Guo Lichen, head of the Sanhe City 610 Office, an extra-legal agency tasked with eradicating Falun Gong, the local police fabricated evidence against them.
The Sanhe City Procuratorate proceeded to charge the four Falun Gong practitioners, and the Sanhe City Court followed up by handing down prison sentences.
Mr. Wang, Ms. Wen, and Mr. Ma were each given five years, and Mr. Kang, three years with a three-year probation. Although they filed appeals within the required 10-day window after the sentencing date, the Sanhe City Court didn't forward their applications to the Langfang City Intermediate Court until January 12th, 2016. By law, the trial court must forward appeals as soon as they are received.
Mr. Wang and Ms. Wen are still in the Sanhe City Detention Centre, while Mr. Ma and Mr. Kang are under house arrest due to health problems.
Court Delays Forwarding Appeals
All four practitioners expressed their determination to fight the unjust sentencing when the verdicts were announced on November 5th. They quickly submitted the required paperwork, only to learn in late December that the trial court hadn't yet forwarded their applications to Langfang City Intermediate Court.
In the days that followed, the practitioners' families and lawyers visited Sanhe City Court repeatedly to inquire about the progress of the appeals. Shi Changlin (the judge in charge of the trial) and Ma Chenghe (Sanhe City Court president) both lied, claiming that the appeals had already been forwarded, but the higher court never received them.
It wasn't until January 25th, 2016, that, just by chance, the defence lawyers discovered that the appeals had been lodged with the higher court 13 days before. The trial court, however, had neglected to inform the lawyers of that fact.
By law, the higher court must issue a decision to an appeal within 30 business days after receipt of a case. Having lost precious time to prepare defense arguments for the appeals, the lawyers decided to file complaints against Shi Changlin and Ma Chenghe.
Higher Court Judge Refuses to Hold Open Hearing
Chen Kexiang, the judge assigned to handle the appeals, summoned Mr. Ma Weishan to Langfang City Intermediate Court on February 1st for questioning.
Mr. Ma reiterated the violations of legal procedure that were committed during his initial trial and requested an open hearing for him and his three co-defendants. Judge Chen rejected the request right away, citing a regulation that open hearings are not allowed if there is no additional evidence in support of the defendants.
Mr. Ma's lawyer informed him that the law actually stipulates that anyone who disagrees with his or her verdict is entitled to an open hearing during the appeal process. After consulting with the other lawyers involved, Mr. Ma's lawyer gained agreement that all four practitioners should file requests for an open hearing.
Higher Court Receptionist Declines to Accept Open Hearing Request
The practitioners' lawyers went to Langfang City Intermediate Court on February 4th to submit their applications to legally represent their clients in the appeal process. The receptionist reluctantly accepted their applications, but refused to accept their request to hold an open hearing. He claimed that only judge Chen could decide whether such a request could be lodged.
Judge Chen, however, had already left on his Chinese New Year vacation. The lawyers had to mail the open hearing request via EMS to the judge.
Lawyers File Complaints with Procuratorate
Mr. Wang's lawyer Zhang Zanning then submitted complaints against court officials Shi Changlin and Ma Chenghe, as well as 610 Office head Guo Lichen, with the Langfang City Procuratorate.
The other practitioners' lawyers reached the procuratorate after it had already closed for the day and had to mail their complaints via EMS.
The lawyers are holding off filing complaints against higher court judge Chen, in hopes that he will reconsider their request for an open hearing, during which they can publicly defend their clients' constitutional right to practise and share information about Falun Gong.
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