Apple Daily trial: expeditious when it suits

Apple Daily executives’ national security trial for “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” and sedition is fixed for this December. The judges claimed the trial should be heard expeditiously – but this reeks of hypocrisy.

Defence lawyers had made clear in a case management hearing this week that they are NOT available if the trial begins in December 2022, and asked for a February 2023 trial (HCCC 51/2022).

The 3 national security designated judges ignored this and fixed the trial for December 2022 in the interests of an “expeditious” trial.

It is unknown if the defence can retain their legal teams or if they will have to find new lawyers at such short notice, for a trial that exceeds 1 month – which will be exceedingly difficult, especially given it’s a high-profile national security case.

Certainly defendants should not be kept in detention for longer than necessary – but it is hypocritical for the court to use this as an excuse to dismiss defence requests when it is well within the court’s power to grant bail.

This makes for an unfair situation in which the defence always loses – they are kept in pre-trial detention, AND denied their choice of lawyers.

In the NSL47 case too, the judge’s comments for an “expeditious” trial only served to put pressure on the defence to agree to the prosecution’s allegations.

Given the 100% conviction rate and lengthy sentences, defendants in this and all national security cases are under pressure to plead guilty or to turn crown, i.e. to give evidence for the prosecution in the hopes of a lighter sentence.

All of the Apple Daily executives and editors showed incredible strength in standing firm for the freedom of the press, even after the national security law was passed. We will always have immense gratitude towards them regardless of how this trial plays out.

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