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HK court frees democracy activist Joshua Wong, 2 others

HONG KONG Hong Kong's highest court yesterday unanimously decided to free three young leaders of the city's pro-democracy movement, including the public face of the youth-led protests, Mr Joshua Wong, in a stark reversal of an earlier ruling.

The decision was made by a panel of five judges on Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal.

Mr Wong, 21, Mr Nathan Law, 24, and Mr Alex Chow, 27, had served roughly two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.

Before that, a magistrate's court had judged that the activists should serve community service for a charge of "unlawful assembly" after they and others stormed into a fenced-off area in front of government headquarters in September 2014.

POLITICAL CHALLENGES

That sparked a night-long stand-off with police and was seen as a key trigger for the "Umbrella Movement" that blocked major roads in the city for 79 days in a push for full democracy, presenting Communist Party rulers in Beijing with one of their biggest political challenges in decades.

But this non-jail sentence was challenged by Hong Kong's Department of Justice, which pushed for a review, eventually leading the Court of Appeal to impose jail terms.

In a summary of the judgment issued to the media, the five judges unanimously said it had "quashed the sentences of imprisonment" by the Court of Appeal.

But they stressed that "future offenders involved in large-scale unlawful assemblies involving violence" will be subject to stricter guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal.- REUTERS

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