February 11, 2016 | By a Minghui correspondent in Heilongjiang Province, China
(Minghui.org) Authorities in Harbin City removed one of the lawyers representing Ms. Zuo Xianfeng from the courtroom when he stated that the charges against his client were false.
In poor health when forced to be present at her trial, Ms. Zuo went into shock. Instead of rescheduling the trial, the judge only ordered a short recess. Ms. Zuo’s second lawyer removed himself from the courtroom to protest the judge’s refusal to observe the law.
The trial continued despite the fact that Ms. Zuo had no representation. The prosecutor recommended four to seven years if convicted. Both lawyers have reported the judge’s misconduct to the local procuratorate.
Intimidation and Torture
Ms. Zuo, 35, was formerly a middle school teacher in Yilan County. The police took her away as she was teaching in December because she asked people to attend the trial of a Falun Gong practitioner. Ms. Zuo was arraigned the same day and officially arrested three days later. The authorities threatened her when delivering the arrest warrant to force her into admitting to the charge. She was indicted five days after that.
Prior to the trial Ms. Zuo was on a hunger strike for over 40 days to protest her mistreatment. Guards at the Harbin Detention Center, where she was kept, inserted a tube into her stomach to force-feed her.
When Ms. Zuo was tried on January 26, 2016, she was emaciated and could barely speak.
Ms. Zuo asked the judge for a jury trial, but her request was denied.
Lawyer Removed for Questioning the Legality of the Charge
Before the trial began, police photographed members of the family and Ms. Zuo’s attorneys. Plainclothes police sat in the gallery monitoring the family during the trial.
At the beginning of her hearing, Ms. Zuo’s lawyers asked the court that Ms. Zuo be examined to decide whether she was able to stand trial. The request was denied. The lawyers then asked the court to provide the legal basis for charging Ms. Zuo with “sending out invitations to attend an open trial of a Falun Gong practitioner.” The judge warned the lawyers that this was interfering with the trial. They continued to demonstrate how Ms. Zuo’s conduct violated no laws and the charge could not stand.
When one of the lawyers questioned the legality of the charge a third time, the judge had him removed from the courtroom.
The lawyer immediately called Fangzheng County Procuratorate to report the judge’s misconduct, followed by an official letter of complaint. The procuratorate did not accept the case. However, by law the procuratorate is required to promptly conduct an investigation.
Second Attorney Leaves Courtroom in Protest
Ms. Zuo went into shock after her lawyer was removed, and the judge called a recess. Ms. Zuo’s second lawyer demanded a physical examination for her, and the judge grudgingly granted it. Ms. Zuo was brought back to the courtroom 20 minutes later on a chair and the judge pronounced that she was fit to stand trial. The lawyer questioned whether she was examined by a trained doctor, and stated that the exam was not properly done since neither the lawyer nor the family were present. The judge ordered another recess.
When the trial resumed twenty minutes later, the judge ordered Ms. Zuo’s family to sit in the back of the gallery, so that they were unable to protest. He then read a part of a legal provision as the legal basis for the health exam.
Ms. Zuo’s lawyer asked the judge to read the rest of the provision, which showed the exam was illegally conducted. The judge refused. The prosecutor then began to read the indictment, over the defense lawyer’s protests. The defense lawyer’s microphone was then turned off. He left the courtroom in protest and reported the judge to the local procuratorate.
Trial Continues without Defense Lawyers
The trial against Ms. Zuo continued in the absence of defense lawyers. It ended after the prosecutor suggested four to seven years for Ms. Zuo’s sentence.