Sunflower movement leaders acquitted over legislature occupation

Taipei, March 31 (CNA) The Taipei District Court ruled on Friday that the main leaders of the 2014 student-led Sunflower Movement -- during which protesters occupied the Legislature for weeks in opposition to a trade-in-services pact with China -- were not guilty of inciting others to commit a crime nor of obstruction of official business or other crimes.

A total of 22 protesters were indicted by Taipei prosecutors in February 2015 for breaking into the legislative compound on March 18, 2014, which led to a 24-day, unprecedented occupation of the parliament by hundreds of protesters. In a first ruling, all defendants were found not guilty though prosecutors could still appeal.

The 22 people include three leading figures: Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (???) of the New Power Party, then a research fellow at Taiwan's top research institution Academia Sinica, Lin Fei-fan (???) and Chen Wei-ting (???), both student activists at the time.

In the verdict, the court said that Huang, Lin, Chen and six others who were charged with inciting others to commit a crime were not guilty because they did not intend to incite people to "commit a crime" and were just expressing their "political views on public affairs." Their actions were in line with the rights of civil disobedience, it added.

As for the charge of obstruction of official business brought against Lin, the court ruled that he was not guilty because he did not attack a police officer who was trying to stop him from entering the main legislative chamber. A clash between the pair occurred when Lin sought to evade the police officer, it added.

Following the Sunflower movement, two similar incidents occurred in the same year and many protesters were indicted in February 2015 for their roles in those protests.

A total of 132 individuals have been indicted over an incident in which protesters laid siege to the nearby Executive Yuan building on March 23, 2014.

Premier Lin Chuan (??) dropped the charges filed against 126 suspects by the previous government shortly after he assumed office in May 2016. A ruling on charges brought against the rest is expected on April 10.

Charges have also been brought against Hung Chung-yen (???), who on April 11, 2014, took to the web to mobilize a large crowd to surround Zhongzheng First Police Precinct near the Legislature, which was responsible for maintaining order during the protests, as well as against three others.

In a first ruling in late 2016, the court found Hung was guilty of violating the Assembly and Parade Act and sentenced to 55 days of detention, which can be converted to a fine of NT$55,000 (US$1,809), though the ruling is being appealed.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel