24 House Church Leaders are still missing following a police raid on a house church leaders meeting in Henan Province. China Aid Organisation (CAA), released the Defense Statement today in the case of a controversial religious group leader, Xu Shuangfu, by his defense Lawyers.
According to an eyewitness report, at noon of March 13, a number of Public Security Officials raided a house church meeting at Wen County, Henan Province. Eighty Chinese house church leaders from different counties of Henan Province were attending a coworkers meeting. All of the leaders were then taken into custody after the police searched their body and confiscated the cash on them. While 36 from Wen County were released within 24 hours, 24 from other counties are still missing. None of their whereabouts are known. One of the leaders Pastor Li Gongshe was reportedly sent to a local hospital ER room for treatment of a broken rib due to a beating by the police.
Regarding the case of Mr. Xu Shuangfu, his two lawyers Li Heping, Esq., of Global Law (Gaobo Longhua) Firm, Beijing and Zhang Lihui, Esq., of Beijing Branch of Xingyun Law Office, Zhejiang Province delivered their defense statement on March 2, 2006 at Shuangyashan Intermediate court, Heilongjiang province.
In their defense statements, the two lawyers presented their defense opinions in five parts in accordance with the law. Concerning the procedures of this case, the two lawyers found ¡°Defendant Xu Shuangfu of the case sustained extortion of confession by severe torture during the investigation stage. The two lawyers stated that ¡°in interviews by each defense attorney and court investigation, Xu Shuangfu stated that he had sustained extortion of confession by severe torture, and the severity of such torture went beyond the imagination of the defense attorneys. 1. Denial of sleep continuously for long periods of time; 2. Pour hot pepper, gasoline, and ginger juice into the nostril; 3. Torture by hanging in which the wrists were bound and hung upward above the ground; 4. Torture by rear hanging in which arms were stretched and bound backward through the crotch and hung upward; 5. Torture by electric instrument including three means: The first one was binding toes with copper wires and electrifying with electric club. The second one was binding fingers with copper wires and electrifying with electric club. The third and the cruelest one was binding genital organ with copper wires and electrifying with electric club. 6. Wearing noise helmet (The helmet, once turned on, would emit varieties of unbearable noise); 7. Hitting noise helmet with clubs (Sometimes the interrogators regard the noise level as too low so they hit the noise helmet with clubs); 8. Beating by iron links and clubs (Xu had several swellings on his head and one on his leg as a result of such beating); 9. Being bound onto an iron chair without food or drink for 48 hours in a row; 10. Shackling hands and feet during the investigation stage until December 15, 2005 except for five minutes of meal time; 11. Burning with big watt bulbs, etc. Every torture session was aimed at compelling the defendant to confess certain fabricated facts. The torture would continue until the defendant confessed. Sometimes the interrogators directly pulled the defendant¡¯s fingers to sign or get finger print. In order to make the defendant confess the statement that “the Eastern Lightning sect must be dealt with”, the interrogators used all kinds of torture techniques for the duration of 7 days and 7 nights. Though the defendant had never said this sentence, he was tortured so severely that he would rather die than live in such dreadful condition. So he finally confessed to whatever charges that they imposed on him.
The two defense attorneys stated that since the interrogation depositions of Xu Shuangfu in this case were extorted by means of torture they are illegal evidence. These should be excluded and shall not be used as basis of verdict. Furthermore, the defense attorneys stated, that fifteen of seventeen specific cases accused in the indictment had already been tried without the presence of defendant Xu Shuangfu and the majority of verdicts had affirmed the so-called criminal facts of Xu Shuangfu. At this court trial the convicted verdicts are presented as evidence to prove the existence of comprehensive crime. This kind of circular argumentation is against logical thinking.
Concerning the facts of this case, the defense lawyers said that the defendant as a preacher was completely aware of one of the Ten Commandments that Christians must abide by, i.e., Thou shall not kill. And it was impossible that the defendant would misunderstand and authorize such an action. The defense attorneys further pointed out that the background facts accused in the indictment are erroneous.
Concerning the evidence of this case, the attorneys see that the evidence proving guilt of the defendant is insufficient and inconsistent, and the confessions are all one-on-one implications. The Criminal Procedure Law of our country strictly prohibits adoption of illegally collected evidence. Thus, this case certainly cannot reach a verdict against the defendant on the basis of illegal evidence.
The two defense attorneys also found that the reasonable doubts in this case cannot be excluded.
Concerning the crime of fraud, the defense attorneys argued that the money offered by Christians to the church belongs to the properties of the church. There is no fact or act of fraud involved. Should the offerings to the church be regarded as fraud gains and confiscated, and offering to the church be convicted and punished as fraud, it is not only a big joke of world class, it will also create unnecessary doubt among persons of various circles at home and abroad concerning the policy of freedom of religious belief of our country, and provide excuses for certain persons abroad to attack China for lack of religious freedom.
The two defense attorneys concluded that judging from the trial of this case, the charges of suspected murder, detaining, and defrauding against the defendant brought by the public prosecutor have serious flaws in facts, evidence, law, and procedures. The facts are nonexistent and lack legal foundation; all of the evidence comprises of confessions from co-defendants of the same case that cannot be used as basis for verdict. Moreover there are severe extortions by torture in the procedures and the logic is reversed. Therefore, as defense attorneys, we declare that defendant Xu Shuangfu is not guilty based on facts and the law.
According to the prosecution paper, Mr. Xu Wenku (also known as Xu Shuangfu and Xu Shengguang) along with 16 of his top leaders was accused of having murdered 20 leaders from a group called Eastern Lightning from 2002 to 2004. Xu was also accused of having involved over 32 million Yuan ( $4 million) fraud.
Xu has been the leader of the Chinese religious group known as the Three Grades of Servants with over half a million members nationwide. CAA believes that while many of the mainstream Chinese House churches identify Mr. Xu's group as doctrinally cultic, nevertheless, their basic constitutional rights should be protected. CAA calls upon the international community to continue to press the Chinese government to make sure the verdict should be based upon true evidence. It is believed that the first trial verdict could be delivered soon so that it won't become an issue when Hu Jintao pays his planned state visit to the United States in June this year. CAA urges the Chinese government to immediately release the arrested 24 pastors in Wen County.
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