RED LANTERNS Trial without jury for Jimmy Lai and the 47 pro-democracy activists

The trial against the Catholic tycoon founder of the Apple Daily newspaper – who has been in jail for 20 months – will begin on December 1. The trial will be conducted by a specially appointed three-judge tribunal, losing a cornerstone of the local system’s legal protections. Lai has announced that he will plead not guilty to charges of “sedition and conspiracy with foreign forces” for which he could face life in prison.

Hong Kong () – The trial of Jimmy Lai – the Catholic magnate publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper (forced to close), who has been in jail since December 2020 – will take place in Hong Kong without a popular jury, before a panel of three judges specially appointed by the Government. Along with him, 47 activists of the pro-democracy movement will be tried, including Benny Tai and Joshua Wong, accused of “conspiracy and attack against security” for organizing primary elections in the summer of 2020 with a view to the vote for the Legislative Assembly.

The news has been known in recent days in the context of some preliminary procedural hearings of the trial, which should begin, in the case of Jimmy Lai and the other six journalists and administrators of Apple Daily, on December 1. On that occasion, the defense also announced that Jimmy Lai will plead not guilty to the crimes of “sedition and conspiracy with foreign forces” attributed to him. They are charges for which life imprisonment is scheduled. In order to cover the legal costs, the funds of Lai’s companies were also released, whose economic strangulation was what forced the newspaper to close in June 2021.

Trials without a popular jury are a significant new step in the cancellation of personal protections. “One of the most important features of the Hong Kong judicial system is the trial by jury, that is, the trial in court by other members of the community of the accused person,” according to what is still read in the official page for the presentation of criminal proceedings inherited from the British Mandate and in force for more than 170 years. Now Homeland Security laws allow them to be challenged. The administration officially justified the use of the panel of specially appointed judges by stating that it would have been difficult for it to ensure the personal safety of jurors and their families. But the concern to avoid possible surprises in the two most important verdicts on the 2019 protests is rather evident.

In July last year, on the other hand, a trial without a jury was also held on charges related to the National Security law in the case of activist Tong Ying-kit, accused of “inciting secession” and “acts of terrorism” for waving a flag with a political slogan. Predictably, he was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Tik Chi-yuen, the only non-aligned deputy in Beijing who – between arrests, rejected candidacies and armored appointment systems – was elected to the National Assembly, had publicly spoken out in recent days against the decision to exclude the popular jury from the trial of the 47 activists in the case of the primary elections. In a letter to Justice Minister Paul Lam he stated that “primary elections affect citizens in casting their vote. Therefore, citizen participation should be included in the characteristics of this case”. Naturally there is no chance that Tik Chi-yuen’s request will be granted.

That is one of the reasons why the 47 defendants chose different procedural options: 29 of them -including Benny Lai and Joshua Wong- affirmed at the preliminary hearing, through their lawyers, that they will plead guilty, while the other 18 They will deny the accusations. According to the latest data from the Hong Kong Political Prisoners Database, there are currently 1,014 people detained for political reasons in the former British colony.



Source link