Legal Procedures Violated in Sentencing Disabled Man to 8 Years for His Faith
(Minghui.org) Mr. Qiao Xiangyang was sentenced to eight years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. His appeal was rejected, and his family has filed a motion to have his case reconsidered in a higher court.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Mr. Qiao, a resident of Xinzheng City, Henan Province, was arrested on September 17, 2018, and sentenced to eight years in the Xinzheng City Court on December 29, 2018. The Zhengzhou City Intermediate Court rejected his appeal shortly after receiving it.
In the motion filed with the Henan Province Superior Court, Mr. Qiao's lawyer detailed how the police, the prosecutor, the trial court, and the appeals court violated legal procedures on every step along the way to his conviction.
Witness Account Extracted Through Coercion
Mr. Qiao's wife told their lawyer that a dozen plainclothes officers broke into their home on the afternoon of September 17, 2018. Without showing their badges or a proper search warrant, they raided the place and confiscated Mr. Qiao's Falun Gong books and Falun Gong informational materials. She was terrified and didn't know what to do.
The next day, Fan Hongbin, then head of the Xinzheng City Domestic Security Division, returned to Mr. Qiao's home and tried to coerce his wife into saying that her husband, who only has one hand, produced all of the confiscated Falun Gong materials.
Fan promised that her husband would get a lighter sentence if she provided incriminating evidence against him. He also threatened to harass her every day if she refused to comply. Mr. Qiao's wife indeed refused to provide a false account incriminating her husband and said, “I don't know.”
Over the next few days, Longhu Police Station officers issued several summonses to Mr. Qiao's wife, pressing her to cooperate with them.
Eventually, the police forced both Mr. Qiao's wife and his brother to provide false accounts against their will. Both of them were barred from attending Mr. Qiao's hearing.
In addition, the Xinzheng City Procuratorate prosecutor failed to perform his due diligence to ascertain whether the witnesses' accounts had been obtained through coercion or deception before approving Mr. Qiao's arrest and indicting him.
Mr. Qiao's lawyer also pointed out that, according to the law, only chief or deputy chief judges of criminal courts were authorized to handle cases that handed down sentences of seven or more years.
But according to information provided by the Xinzheng City Court, presiding judge Gao Kui, who was in charge of Mr. Qiao's case, wasn't on the list of qualified judges. He was listed as an associate director of the research center in the court.
The court also failed to form a collegiate bench or assign another judge to oversee the sentencing.
Mr. Qiao was sentenced on a charge of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” which is the standard pretext used by the Chinese courts to criminalize and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.
His lawyer argued that no law has ever deemed practicing Falun Gong a crime or labeled it a cult, so the charge couldn't be applied to him. Furthermore, the judge and the prosecutor also failed to specify which law Mr. Qiao was obstructing the enforcement of.
The prosecution evidence included Mr. Qiao's possession of Falun Gong books. His lawyer argued that the books were only for Mr. Qiao's personal use and didn't cause harm to anyone. The lawyer also cited a 2011 notice issued by the Chinese Administration of Press and Publication, in which it lifted its ban on the publication of Falun Gong books. Meaning that the materials confiscated from Mr. Qiao couldn't be used to charge him and it didn't matter whether he made the Falun Gong informational materials himself or not.
The Expedited Appeals Court Ruling
After Mr. Qiao filed an appeal with the Zhengzhou City Intermediate Court, the appeals court judge expedited the procedure and quickly upheld the ruling by the trial court.
Mr. Qiao's lawyer wrote in the motion that the expedited procedure is usually reserved for civil or criminal cases involving prison sentences of less than three years and shouldn't be used in cases involving terms of seven or more years.
The lawyer said that judge Wang Zhe at the appeals court also failed to carry out his judicial responsibilities to thoroughly investigate Mr. Qiao's case and verify that his sentence was just.