|Pastor Zhang Shaojie on Feb. 11, 2014. (Photo: ChinaAid)|
China Aid Association
(Nanle County, Henan—Feb. 14, 2013) A lawyer representing the detained pastor of the Nanle County Christian Church demanded a joint trial with the eight other detained Christian and a change of venue during a pre-trial meeting with the Nanle County Court on Wednesday.
Lawyers Zhao Yonglin and Liu Weiguo represent Pastor Zhang Shaojie, who was forcibly detained on Nov. 16 and is charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and “fraud” (https://chinaaid.org/2014/01/update-nanle-county-christian-church.html).
“Zhao proposed his demands for the procedure. In Zhang Shaojie’s case, they accused the people of jointly committing a crime and took more than 20 people into custody. At this moment, nine people are being detained, and this includes legal and illegal detentions,” co-counsel Liu Weiguo said. At least six of those in detention are facing a criminal indictment.
“Since this a joint case involving many people, the law stipulates that it should be tried as one case,” Liu said. He said it wouldn’t be fair to the defendants if they were to be prosecuted separately, as the court wouldn’t be able to hear all the testimonies and get the full picture of what happened.
Liu also said that the other defendants wouldn’t have a fair chance in their own cases if Zhang was to be found guilty. “This is because if the verdict comes out soon, and he is considered the principal criminal and other people are considered accomplices, [their lawyers] wouldn’t have the ability to argue relevant facts.” If Zhang was found guilty, the court would automatically assume guilt in the other cases because of the defendants’ status as accomplices.
“Therefore, we must insist that the court hear the cases jointly, and only this can be a just legal procedure,” Liu said.
Zhao also demanded that the Nanle County Court relinquish responsibility of the case and allow the Puyang Municipal Intermediate Court to designate a court outside of Nanle County to preside over the hearing in the name of impartiality. “Because Nanle authorities mobilized the Public Security Bureau, the procuratorate, the court and even the so-called delegates of the National People’s Congress and members of the Political Consultative Conference, who wrongly intervened in this case, they won’t have the ability to handle this case fairly,” Liu said.
Zhao said that at the time of the meeting, the court had no response to the demands.
Fake fraud charges
Liu said he has done quite a bit of research into the fraud charges Zhang is facing and has concluded that the charges themselves are fraudulent. “We have learned that the so-called victim of the fraud, Li Cairen (https://chinaaid.org/2014/01/exclusive-identity-of-12-detained-nanle.html) is still being illegally detained.
“If Li Cairen cannot come to court, there will be no way to prove that this case doesn’t exist. If Li really accused Zhang of fraud, she wouldn’t be illegally detained. It is this violation of her personal freedom that lets us easily come to the conclusion that Li didn’t accuse Zhang,” Liu said.
On Feb. 11, Zhao went to the Nanle County Detention Center to meet with Zhang before the pre-trial meeting. Upon arrival, Zhao learned that Zhang had been transferred to Puyang Municipal Detention center prior to the Chinese New Year, which began on Jan. 31.
“We have objections to the practice of the Henan authorities, mainly the police for transferring Zhang to another detention center on the eve of the Spring Festival. The Chinese people value the Spring Festival very much and think it is the most important holiday,” Liu said.
“When the police changed his place of detention, he arrived at a new location and had to get familiar with new people there. There was no way for him to spend the holiday in peace.”
Additionally, Liu said the detention center had received a notice, the sender of which is currently unknown, requiring inmates in Zhang’s cell to ignore him. “However, Zhang successfully broke through the hurdle and advised two inmates on death-row to believe in Jesus and become Christians. In Zhang’s own words, no matter where he is detained and no matter how bad his situation, they don’t affect his duty as a missionary.”
Liu had previously received a notice on Jan. 21, stating that a pre-trial meeting was scheduled for Jan. 23 and the trial was scheduled to begin on Jan. 28 (https://chinaaid.org/2014/01/nanle-county-christian-church-pastor.html).
Liu and Zhang boycotted the meeting because the notice wasn’t sent at least three days in advance per regulations.
Next, Liu received a notice stating that the trial date had been changed from Jan. 28 to Feb. 12 because Zhang had decided to hire a new lawyer. Liu concluded that the change must have arisen from the fact that Zhao submitted his credentials later than Liu (https://chinaaid.org/2014/01/three-christians-in-nanle-county-case.html).
The detentions in the case came after Zhang and a group of believers attempted to travel to Beijing to petition a higher court concerning a land dispute between the Nanle County Christian Church and the local government.
ChinaAid calls for the Nanle County Court to make the right decision and transfer authority of the case to the Puyang Municipal Intermediate Court for reassignment. We call on whatever court that ends up with the case to handle it justly. In addition, we call for the release of those believers who are illegally detained. ChinaAid asks for the continued prayers of the worldwide Christian community.
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