The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday asked the District Court to appoint a judge specially tasked with handling national security cases to take control of the trial of activist Tam Tak-chi – even though he has not been charged under the national security law.
Tam, vice-chairman of the People Power group, faces 14 charges – including sedition charges under a colonial-era law, and inciting others to join an unauthorised assembly.
While prosecutors did not say they intend to lay new charges against Tam under the new national security law, they said his case may nonetheless involve national security matters, and a national security judge is thus best positioned to oversee the trial.
DOJ lawyers told Chief District Judge Justin Ko that if any normal judge presides over cases involving national security matters, the result may be subject to judicial review, as the judge may be acting beyond his legal authority.
They added that even the decision on whether the case should be handed over to a designated judge, must also be made by a judge appointed to handle national security cases.
But Judge Ko rebutted this claim, saying if he were to allow a national security judge to make the decision, it would in effect already be granting the prosecution’s request.
He asked both the prosecution and the defense to make written submissions on the request – thought to be unprecedented – before the court reconvenes on December 2 to make a decision on the matter.
Under the new law, judges designated to cases involving the national security law are appointed by the Chief Executive.
People Power chairman Ray Chan slammed the request as ridiculous.
"The authoritarian government, including the police and the DOJ... even though they can't find [evidence] that you've broken the national security law, they can still request a judge who is designated to hear national security cases to hear your case. This puts protesters in the most difficult, most unfavourable position," he said.
Tam remains remanded in custody as the court refused to grant bail.
He was arrested on September 6 for allegedly chanting slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Five Demands, Not One Less" at street booths between March and July.
'National security judge must oversee non-NSL case'
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