Yang Hua, a pastor of Living Stone Church in China's Guizhou province, is seeking to appeal his case after a court sentenced him to 30 months' imprisonment for exposing documents that contained plans for the destruction of his church.
Yang, whose real name is Li Guozhi, pleaded not guilty at a closed-door hearing held in Nanming district court on Dec. 26, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. The court handed down a written verdict four days after the hearing, but Yang and his lawyers only received it by mail last week.
Yang's defense lawyers, Zhao Yonglin and Chen Jiangang, had alleged that their client had been tortured and verbally abused to make a confession, but the prosecutors denied it in the verdict.
Yang was initially detained on Dec. 9, 2015 for trying to prevent officials from confiscating a hard drive during a church raid. He was formally arrested on Jan. 22, 2016 for "divulging state secrets."
He was accused of forwarding a social media post containing a document about a plan to crack down on Living Stone Church. He reportedly included a call to prayer for the church in his post. The church was eventually shut down, and the authorities suspended its bank accounts.
"The so-called state secret was a document prepared by a temporary city administrative task force calling for the destruction of Living Stone Church. But the decision itself was illegal and should have been exposed instead," said Zhao.
Another pastor, Su Tianfu, was charged with the same crime along with two other Christians.
Yang's wife, Wang Hongwu, said that Su has been escorted away by secret state security agents days before Yang's hearing.
Wang, who was prevented from attending Yang's trial, stated that she only learned about the verdict last week.
"Yang Hua is appealing and I'm backing him all the way. The verdict is in the hands of the Lord. I trust that He will never do us wrong," she told SCMP.
She told Radio Free Asia after the hearing that Yang could only walk with assistance from detention center guards. She said that she is still thankful despite her husband's ordeal in prison.
"I was told that he is very popular inside prison. Most inmates don't know his name but they call him Jesus. That must be all he talks about inside," she told SCMP.