The first trial of 17 house church leaders ended without a verdict, last Friday, amidst allegations that the defendants were tortured and sexually abused while under interrogation.
Xu Wenku, leader of the Three Grades of servants, was accused along with sixteen followers of murdering 20 Eastern Lightning members. The murder charge has so far been denied by both the accused and human rights watchers. Xu has also been accused of being involved with a 32 million Yuan ($4 million) fraud scandal.
China Aid Association president, Bob Fu, expressed doubts over the fairness of the trial, saying that he believes the defendants were coerced into making false confessions.
This is not the first time Xu has ran afoul of the law, having served in labor camps and prisons since 1976, mainly for “illegal religious activity,” according to a prosecution paper CAA claimed to have obtained.
CAA stated that a government source revealed that only one of the 17 defendant’s relatives was allowed to attend the trial, which began last Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Shuangyashan Intermediate court, Heilongjiang province.
Xu’s daughter, Baiying, who attended the trial described her father as being “calm and peaceful” throughout the proceedings. “My father told the court he was very sad after hearing the murdering activities today and he said murdering is evil and forbidden by God,” she said. The younger Xu said that her father also denied the validity of his confession, stating he was tortured while under questioning.
The older Xu claimed to the court that he was hung in the air for four hours with sleep deprivation for five days and nights, according to his daughter.
Though mainline Protestant house churches often view the doctrine of the Three Grades as cultish, the group does share some common Christian principles, says Bosnewslife.
CAA urged in a newsletter today asking for the Chinese government to hand a verdict that will “be based upon true evidence.” The Texas-based organization expects the verdict to be delivered soon. Some of the defendants may receive death sentences if convicted of committing the crime.