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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 09:28 GMT
Hong Kong frees WTO protesters
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Hong Kong

A South Korean man looks out of a police bus window at Hong Kong police as he, and fellow anti-WTO protesters, are taken to a detention centre, 18/12/2005
Most of the 14 arrested were South Korean citizens
A court in Hong Kong has released 11 anti-WTO protesters who were accused of unlawful assembly.

But prosecutions of three others who were arrested after violent clashes with police outside last month's world trade talks look likely to continue.

Around 50 activists gathered at the court to protest against what they see as politically motivated prosecutions.

The 14 activists arrested in December have spent almost a month on bail in Hong Kong.

They had been detained after anti-WTO demonstrators fought with police during the trade talks.

Dozens of officers and protestors were injured in the clashes, some seriously.

Prison threat

The activists released were from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and mainland China.

The court ruled there was not enough evidence to proceed with their prosecution, but charges against three others, all South Korean, were upheld.

They face prison terms of up to five years if convicted of the charges they all deny.

South Korean farmers' organisations and trade unionists had earlier threatened mass protests later this month in Hong Kong unless all 14 were released.

They are trying to portray the men as political prisoners.

The decision not to release all the men means this will continue to be a difficult issue for the Hong Kong government and the South Korean authorities to resolve. Hong Kong insists it will not back down in the face of further protests.


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