Jimmy Lai to remain in jail after apex court says judge had 'misconstrued' bail clause in security law
The Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday upheld a government challenge to a lower court's decision to grant bail to the media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying as he awaits trial on a charge of colluding with foreign forces under the national security law, RTHK reports.
The top court ruled that a Court of Appeal judge who granted Lai bail in December "misconstrued" a clause of the national security legislation relating to bail. It said Lai would be able to launch a new appeal against a magistrate's original decision to deny him bail, but would be remanded in custody pending that application.
The case was seen as a key test of a provision in the legislation that states judges should not grant bail to those charged with national security offenses unless they are satisfied that the defendant will no longer carry out acts that threaten national security.
The top court reserved its judgment after a hearing on February 2 of the government’s appeal against a lower court decision to grant bail to Lai. The appeal was heard by Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, and judges Roberto Ribeiro, Joseph Fok, Patrick Chan, and Frank Stock.
They were told by prosecutors that the default position for suspected national security law violations is that no bail should be granted to defendants.
Prosecution counsel said a High Court judge should not have taken into account conditions set for Lai's bail.
But a defense lawyer argued that in deciding whether to grant bail, the court must also take into account important principles such as the presumption of innocence and right to liberty.
Lai was released from detention on bail of HK$10 million on December 23 last year and placed under house arrest. The Apple Daily founder was also ordered by the High Court not to engage in media interviews or social media postings.
However, the Department of Justice sought leave to appeal against the bail move. The Court of Final Appeal granted leave for the appeal application on December 31 last year, and ordered Lai's return to prison pending the hearing.