Hong Kong court docket convicts Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee and different pro-democracy activists over 2019 protest

The opposite defendants included “Hong Kong’s father of democracy” Martin Lee and veteran pro-democracy figures Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan. They have been charged with organizing and collaborating in a peaceable protest on Hong Kong Island on August 18, 2019, which had been banned by police. Among the many 9 defendants, all however ex-lawmakers Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung pleaded not responsible.

On Thursday, choose Amanda Woodcock convicted the defendants, including they are going to be sentenced at one other date. The costs carry a most penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment.

“The prosecution is ready to show past affordable doubt that each one the defendants organized what amounted to an unauthorized meeting on August 18, 2019,” she advised the court docket.

The choice adopted a 20-day trial in February and March, certainly one of many who have emerged from the just about year-long unrest that rocked town in 2019.

On the day in query, tons of of 1000’s of protesters marched from Victoria Park to Central amid the continued pro-democracy demonstrations, the place they known as for larger authorities accountability and an impartial investigation into police brutality. Organizers claimed that as much as 1.7 million folks took half within the protests, although CNN is unable to independently confirm the estimate.

Audrey Eu, a barrister who represented Lai, argued in court docket that police shouldn’t be given the facility to ban peaceable protests as a result of it will violate the constitutional safety for freedom of meeting. She additionally argued the defendants have been merely main protesters away from Victoria Park due to overcrowding.

Nevertheless, the choose mentioned Hong Kong’s prime court docket has beforehand upheld the legality of police banning protests to guard the general public curiosity, and mentioned there have been no “good and controversial grounds” for suggesting the defendants have been simply dispersing the group.

“The choice to prosecute stays the only authority of the Division of Justice,” she added. “There have been no grounds raised to justify an interference with that call.”

Talking earlier than the court docket session, veteran pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan thanked Hong Kongers for his or her assist and known as on them to maintain up the combat for democracy.

“We’ll nonetheless march on, it doesn’t matter what lies sooner or later. We imagine within the folks of Hong Kong. The victory is ours if the folks of Hong Kong are persistent,” he mentioned.

One other defendant, “Longhair” Leung Kwok-hung, repeatedly chanted “peaceable protest will not be against the law” within the courtroom, a chant additionally heard outdoors, the place supporters had gathered. The court docket opened a couple of extra areas as court docket extensions to accommodate the group.

Supporters chanted protest slogans outdoors the court docket constructing earlier than the decision was handed down.

Lai, who owns the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Each day and is a outstanding critic of Beijing, has been remanded in custody for months, dealing with a spread of expenses associated to 2019 and below the nationwide safety regulation imposed on town by Beijing final 12 months.
Thursday’s verdict comes days after Beijing handed a brand new “patriotic” election regulation for Hong Kong that may drastically restrict the flexibility of unusual folks to elect their leaders, and will spell the tip for town’s conventional pro-democracy opposition.
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