On May 8th, 2014, the Maoming City Intermediate Court continued the trial of Ms. Liang Guifen, a Falun Gong practitioner appealing her three-and-a-half-year sentence.
The appellant’s family members arrived at the courthouse in the morning under a tense atmosphere: personnel from the city and county level 610 Office (an organisation of special agents just for persecuting Falun Gong), as well as police officers from the National Security Division, stood outside the court gates.
In addition to showing identification, everyone attending the court session was ordered to leave their signatures and had their pictures taken. Meanwhile, plainclothes officers walked back and forth among the crowd of court attendees.
Attorney Liu, Ms. Liang's defence attorney, pointed out that the chief judge “adopted double standards.” He alleged that the judge avoided investigating fabricated witness testimony and was merely going through the motions, without touching upon the matters of law.
The first session of the appeal hearing on February 20th, 2014 was abruptly adjourned by the presiding judge after Ms. Liang requested to exercise her right to have all present Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members excused from the court session. (Practitioner Exercises Right to Have Communist Party Members Excused; Judge Adjourns Trial)
Fabricated Witness Testimony
During the May 8th trial, one of Ms. Liang's defence attorneys read testimony provided by thirteen witnesses after the original trial.
Testimony of 13 practitioners
The thirteen witnesses were the other Falun Gong practitioners arrested together with Ms. Liang Guifen on November 2nd, 2013. They alleged that after being arrested, police threatened them into signing a statement for their release. They didn't know that the document had content regarding Ms. Liang.
In the new testimony Attorney Liu read at the May 8th trial, they wrote: “We are thirteen Falun Gong witnesses from Maogang District, Poxin Town. We were arrested by Poxin police officers on November 2nd, 2013. On December 23rd, 2013, when the trial was held in Maogang District Court, the procurator's description of our testimony was false.
“Lu Shanghui, the chief of the Maogang District National Security Division, instructed personnel to threaten us seventy and eighty-year-olds, and told us that they would release us as long as we signed and fingerprinted the document. The police and the procuratorate colluded to fabricate charges against Liang Guifen.”
Defence Attorneys Protest Unfair Treatment
Ms. Liang's two defence attorneys alleged that they were treated unfairly. For example, the procurator was allowed to use the microphone when speaking, but the defence attorneys could not.
When they protested that the presiding judge allowed the procurator to interrupt their defence frequently, the judge affirmed the procurator's power to “supervise” the defence, but ignored the procedure requiring the procurator to request permission before speaking.
Finally, Attorney Liu said, “When I talked about Falun Gong's legal status around the world, the chief judge interrupted me and said it was unrelated to the case. But when the procurator accused Falun Gong of being an organization trying to subvert the government's authority, the judge did nothing.”
Family Members Angry
The procurator, declaring the facts of the crime clear and the evidence sufficient, requested that the judge uphold the original sentence.
The presiding judge Huang asked Liang Guifen if she had any requests. At this point, several court attendees demanded that Ms. Liang be cleared of all charges and released.
Judge Huang Changwen and the procurator quickly packed their items and left the courtroom, while judge Li Nan stood still, shocked. The court police then hurriedly handcuffed Liang Guifen and took her away.
Threats and Intimidation Before the Trial
The day before the trial, the director of the Dianbai County 610 Office (an organisation of special agents just for persecuting Falun Gong) and several other officials appeared at the home of Ms. Liang's sister-in-law to try to stop her from hiring lawyers for Ms. Liang. The confrontation attracted the attention of her neighbours.
When an official threatened to arrest Ms. Liang's sister-in-law, a neighbour replied, “She felt Falun Gong was good and learned it...you shouldn't treat her like that.” The 610 Office personnel left shortly thereafter.
Ms. Liang's sister-in-law has been harassed multiple times between February 20th, the date of Ms. Liang's first appeal hearing, and May 7th.
Mr. Wu Xianjin, another attendee at the trial, said that his sister received a phone call from the Gaozhou City 610 Office threatening that the Intermediate Court was prepared to treat Wu as the leader of an organized group of attendees.
Attendees also noted several unidentified people aiming videos recorders at Ms. Liang's relatives. Judge Huang later confirmed that he gave them permission to do so. In addition, after personnel from the 610 Office and the National Security Division held a meeting in the Intermediate Court after the trial, some attendees expressed concern that the list of names would be passed to the 610 Office and used by police for further harassment and intimidation of Ms. Liang's relatives.
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