|January 23, 2014|
|Mr. Yanjun was tried by the People's Court of Heshigten Banner and is facing long imprisonment possibly up to life in prison on an alleged charge of "fraud" (SMHRIC photo)|
Although the court decision is yet to be made, the People’s Procuratorate issued a “Sentencing Recommendation” asking the court to hand down harsh punishments to the three defendants ranging from 10 years in jail possibly up to life in prison on an alleged charge of “fraud”. It also recommended a possible reduction of jail terms, proposing 12-14 years in jail for Yanjun, and 10-12 years for Oyuundalai and Shirmee. All three are maintaining their innocence and entering not guilty pleas.
According to the Bill of Indictment issued by the People’s Procuratorate of Heshigten Banner, the three herders were detained on August 14, 2013, and officially arrested on September 18, 2013 for alleged “involvement in fraud”. The Bill of Indictment states that the defendants “swindled the Heshigten Banner Bureau of Land and Resources out of 1,493,100 yuan (approximately $US 247,000) which was allocated to the herders as resettlement compensation, and illegally diverted it.”
“It is a groundless accusation. My father as the elected representative of our Jir Gachaa completed all required paperwork, and distributed the funds to the herders,” Mr. Hadaa, son of the defendant Yanjun told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) in a phone interview, “in fact, the entire transaction and associated procedure were directed and completed by the Bureau of Land and Resources which is a government branch.”
“The amount paid as compensation was far short of even covering the legal fees and other expenses incurred by the herders who pursued a settlement of the case for years,” Hadaa said that the herders of this community have been appealing to the local government since 1999.
A written complaint entitled the “Background Information on the Case of the Right Defender Mr. Yanjun” states that since the 1950s, two Chinese state-run forestry companies called “Huang Gang Liang Forestry” and “Bayan-oboo Forestry” alone occupied two third of Jir Gachaa’s grazing land. The total area of these two forestry companies was as large as 500,000 mu (approximately 83,000 acre), pushing the herders to the edge of their own grazing land, causing frequent clashes between the local herders and Chinese forestry workers.
As the head of Jir Gachaa elected by the herders in 2007, Yanjun organized the herders and pursued legal avenues in reclaiming the lost grazing lands from the two forestry companies and more recently arrived mining corporations. As a result, the “Huang Gang Liang Forestry” and “Huang Gang Liang Iron Mine” admitted to their illegal occupation of the herders’ grazing lands and agreed to give up part of the land.
To appease the disgruntled herders, the local government settled the case by paying the herders the amount of 1,493,100 yuan as compensation for the grazing lands that were unable to be reclaimed. Ironically, now these funds are being used as evidence of “fraud” by the authorities against the three herders.
In late July 2013, Yanjun experiencing serious health concerns, had stomach and liver surgery. A little after two weeks, still not recovered from surgery he was arrested by the Heshigten Banner Public Security Bureau.
On October 23, 2013, Yanjun was released from detention on bail pending trial due to his deteriorating health.
“My father was weak and thin when he was discharged from the detention,” Hadaa described his father’s poor health, “his legs were swollen, and he was not even able to stand on his feet.”
“Still being held in detention, the other two herders also have serious health problems,” Hadaa told SMHRIC, “Oyuundalai has been suffering from deformed spinal cord, and Shirmee has kidney infection.”
“Family members are denied the right to visit them, and no medical treatment has been made available to them at any time during detention,” Hadaa added.
For more information on the case, the following individuals can be reached via phone:
Mr.Shao Wenjie (environmental activist): 0086-186-1071-1646
Mr.Bayanjargal (defendant attorney): 0086-139-4769-1607