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CHINA PLANS MAJOR TRIAL OF FALUN GONG LEADERS

China plans to put four leading members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement on trial Sunday in the most significant prosecution since outlawing the group five months ago.

Family members of the four were formally notified Friday of the trial and told that each defendant could have only one relative present at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

The background of the defendants -- Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu and Yao Jie -- underscores Falun Gong's reach, the Communist government's fear of the popular group and the difficulties encountered in suppressing it. All are Communist Party members holding positions of some influence in government or business.

Word of the trial came after the close of business Friday, and calls to court seeking confirmation went unanswered. But the No. 1 People's Court is expected to sentence them to 20 years or more in prison for "using an evil cult to undermine the implementation of laws" and other crimes, the Information Center said.

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