Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CHINA: TWO MORE NANLE CHURCH DETAINEES SENTENCED IN HENAN

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Two more detainees from Nanle County Christian Church, Henan Province, detained in November 2013 after a group of church members attempted to petition a higher authority about a land dispute involving the church, have been found guilty of 'gathering a crowd to disrupt public order'.

On 9 September Zhang Cuijuan was sentenced to one and a half years in prison, while Zhao Junling was sentenced to one year in prison with a reprieve of two years, during which he will be under surveillance.

According to a report from China Aid, the hearing took place a day earlier than planned, meaning that Zhang Cuijuan's lawyers Li Baiguang and Liu Peifu were unable to attend. Zhao Junling reportedly dismissed his lawyers before the hearing in exchange for 'leniency'. Zhang Cuijuan plans to appeal.

The sentencing comes less than a month after Puyang Intermediate Court rejected an appeal by Zhang Shaojie, pastor of Nanle Church and Zhang Cuijuan's brother, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 100,000 RMB (approximately £9,400) for fraud and 'gathering a crowd to disturb public order'. In November and December 2013 Pastor Zhang and over 20 other members of Nanle County Christian Church were detained without formal documentation after a group of church members attempted to petition a higher authority about a land dispute involving the church.

One other Nanle Church detainee, Li Cairen, remains in detention: her whereabouts are unknown. Li was taken into custody in December 2013. A testimony against Pastor Zhang allegedly written by Li was used in his trial; however, Lawyer Li Fangping has noted that Li's testimony was written while she was in detention herself, and that a request by the defence counsel for Li to appear in court as a witness was rejected.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, 'The sentences given to Zhang Cuijuan and Zhao Junling highlight the many irregularities in the cases concerning the Nanle Church detainees. Lawyers who should have been present were given inaccurate information to prevent them from attending. Meanwhile, the church itself is still under heavy surveillance. We urge the authorities to cease all restrictions on the church, to immediately review the sentences given to Pastor Zhang, Zhang Cuijuan and Zhao Junling, and to ensure Li Cairen's unconditional release'.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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