01/05/2024, 15.56
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A suspected torture victim called to testify against Jimmy Lai

A team of international lawyers has filed a complaint with the UN in connection with the trial of the Apple Daily publisher. The prosecution wants Andy Li – a pro-democracy activist arrested trying to reach Taiwan on a boat – to testify against the former media mogul. Convicted in mainland China for illegal expatriation, Li has been held in a psychiatric hospital since he was returned to Hong Kong. He is expected to testify against Lai before going on trial himself under the National Security Law.

AsiaNews (Hong Kong/Agencies) – Jimmy Lai’s international legal team today filed an urgent appeal with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Alice Jill Edwards.

Lai is a pro-democracy businessman held in prison in Hong Kong for more than three years, accused under China’s National Security Law. His legal team has serious concerns over the treatment of Andy Li (Li Yu-Hin), a key prosecution witness in Jimmy Lai’s ongoing trial.

The team contends that there is credible evidence that Mr Li was subjected to torture in a detention centre in mainland China before confessing that he conspired with Mr Lai to collude with foreign entities in order to endanger national security.

In August 2020, Li and eleven other people were arrested while trying to reach Taiwan by boat. Taken to mainland China, they were tried and sentenced to up to three years for illegal border crossing.

Andy Li was sent back to Hong Kong in March 2021, to be indicted under the National Security Law following his guilty plea. He is due to be tried after giving evidence against Jimmy Lai, and after the conclusion of Jimmy Lai’s trial. 

In December 2023, the Washington Post published the results of a year-long investigation, which concluded that Andy Li and the others had been mistreated during Chinese detention.

Although the report claims that most of the 12 were not physically abused, it reports that "seven people familiar with conditions at the center said screaming could 'consistently' be heard coming from one cell: Li’s.”

Since he was sent back in March 2021, Li has been held in a secure psychiatric facility in Hong Kong, not in a prison. This fact evidently raises further fears about his condition.

Despite all this, the Prosecutor's Office announced that Li was going to be a key prosecution witness in Jimmy Lai’s trial and that he would be called to testify in the coming weeks.

However, “international law prohibits reliance on evidence derived through torture, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, commenting on today's urgent UN appeal.

“Such statements are involuntary, inherently unreliable, violate the right to a fair trial, and reliance upon them indirectly legitimises torture and taints the justice system,” added Gallagher, who heads the international legal team acting on behalf of Jimmy Lai.

Hence, the UN body was asked to ensure that Li’s testimony is discarded, as it cannot be considered reliable.

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