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Cult members appeal murder sentences

2014-11-22 09:02 Xinhua Web Editor: Si Huan

The Shandong Higher People's Court on Friday heard the appeal of five cult members alleged to have beaten a woman to death at a McDonald's outlet in May.

In October, Zhang Fan and Zhang Lidong were sentenced to death by an intermediate court in Shandong Province, with another accomplice, Lyu Yingchun, given a life sentence.

Another two cult members, Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian, were sentenced to prison terms of ten and seven years respectively. The four Zhangs' are related.

All five appealed the Yantai Intermediate People's Court's verdicts.

The higher court, after Friday's five hour trial, did not disclose how long it would take to decide if it would uphold the lower court's verdict.

A woman, identified as Wu, was beaten to death on May 28 at a McDonald's outlet in Zhaoyuan in Shandong, after she refused to give her cellphone number to the cult members.

It is alleged that the five were trying to recruit new members to their "quannengshen" (Almighty God) cult.

The group branded Wu an "evil spirit" for her refusal and Zhang Fan proceeded to bludgeon Wu with a chair. Once on the ground, Zhang stamped on her head, repeatedly jumping up and down on her while asking other cult members present to partake.

Zhang Lidong also assaulted Wu with a mop until it broke and stomped on her head, accompanied by Lyu repeatedly kicking the woman. In addition, Lyu prevented McDonald's staff from intervening or alerting the police.

Wu's death was caused by injuries sustained in this violent outburst, according to a statement from the intermediate court.

In addition to the murder charge, Zhang Fan, Zhang Lidong and Lyu Yingchun were also charged with undermining law enforcement using heresy.

During Friday's trial, the higher court heard the defendants' appeal,and legal team statements.

Wu's family, the suspects' relatives, several lawmakers, members of the public and journalists were present at court.

Established in the 1990s in central China's Henan Province, "quannengshen" claims that Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, the wife of the sect's founder Zhao Weishan, also known as Xu Wenshan. The couple fled to the United States in September 2000.

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