NEW YORK, August 29, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) -- Two days ago in Kiev, Ukraine, a local judge dismissed a case brought against practitioners of Falun Gong by Ukrainian police as "groundless." The police had detained 23 Falun Gong practitioners in Ukraine’s capital after receiving pressure from Beijing who "protested against the fact that Falun Gong is freely allowed in the country," according to one witness to the events.The Ukrainian Falun Gong practitioners were taken into custody on Aug. 24, 2002--Ukrainian Independence Day. They had come to Kiev for the holiday and had obtained a permit to practice the Falun Gong exercises in Shevchenko Park. However, upon arriving at the park, Ukrainian police told them their permit had been "cancelled."The 23 practitioners proceeded to another park where local practitioners have practiced the Falun Gong exercises regularly for the past two years with permission from the Ukrainian Committee of Safety and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.Falun Gong Practitioners Arbitrarily Detained at Police StationLocal police, however, again approached the group and asked them to leave. Witnesses say the practitioners obeyed, gathered their belongings and left the park. Shortly after leaving, however, they were surrounded by police and taken into custody. When asked why they were being detained, police replied they needed to "check the identity" of the practitioners and threatened to use force if the practitioners did not get into the police vehicles.As the Falun Gong practitioners were taken into custody, witnesses say police cited pressure from Beijing as the cause, stating China is "huge and powerful" compared with a developing country like Ukraine and that Ukraine "can’t afford trouble with China relations." According to the detained practitioners, police also mentioned that Chinese officials had struck a deal with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop Falun Gong activities in Ukraine.Once at the police station, the practitioners say they were forced to sign statements alleging various wrongdoings, such as "illegally holding an event without permission."The entire event at the police station was videotaped by the police.Sergey Martinovich, was separated from the rest of the group and accused of "illegally organizing" a group and holding an event with "no permission."Mr. Martinovich denied the charges, explaining that Falun Gong practitioners had always practiced in the park without trouble and that on Independence Day, he had obtained a permit for their activity. Mr. Martinovich refused to sign the document listing the charges, explaining he had "done nothing wrong."All detained practitioners were released after being held for 3 hours. Mr. Martinovich, however, was taken to court on August 27, at which time the presiding judge dismissed the case, saying it was "groundless."Jiang Reaches Out to Persecute Falun GongThe events in Ukraine come just a month after Li Zhao Xing, China’s Vice Foreign Minister, had toured Eastern European nations in July to pressure the Chinese Embassies and associations in each country to intensify their efforts to "divide local Chinese residents from Falun Gong practitioners," and "report all Falun Gong activities to the Chinese Embassy.""It is appalling that Jiang Zemin can dictate the actions of an independent state like Ukraine and that Ukrainian authorities would be subject to decrees from as far away as Beijing," notes Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Levi Browde, "Through a series of recent events, we are witnessing a systematic expansion of Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong in Europe. We hope that the Ukrainian Government will stand up to the pressure from Beijing, and truly protect its citizens’ right to freedom of conscience, expression, and association."