HK court says media tycoon Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation in 2017 case

HONG KONG, Sept 3- A Hong Kong court declared media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation on Thursday, ending one several cases against him after his high-profile arrest last month under a new national security law. Lai, who is a key critic of Beijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter from Oriental Daily…

HONG KONG, Sept 3 (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court declared

media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of

criminal intimidation on Thursday, ending one several cases

against him after his high-profile arrest last month under a new

national security law.

Thursday’s verdict was for a case that dates back to 2017and was unrelated to his arrest. Lai, who is a key critic ofBeijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter fromOriental Daily News, a major competitor to Lai’s tabloid AppleDaily. Police however only charged him in February this year.

The mainland-born media magnate had pleaded not guilty.

Dressed in a light grey suit and green shirt, he smiledafter the verdict was read out and shook hands with supporterswho filled the courtroom.

His case comes after he was arrested for suspected collusionwith foreign forces on August 10, making him the highest profileperson to be arrested under the Beijing imposed law.

The 71-year-old had been a frequent visitor to Washington,where he met officials including U.S. Secretary of State MikePompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, promptingBeijing to label him a “traitor”

After Lai’s August arrest around 200 police officerssearched the office of his Apple Daily newspaper.

The national security law punishes anything China considerssubversion, succession, terrorism and collusion with foreignforces with up to life in prison.

Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say itwill bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracyprotests last year.

Lai’s pro-democratic Apple Daily has vied with pro-BeijingOriental Daily for readership in the special administrativeregion. In 2014 Oriental Daily published a fake obituary of Lai,claiming that he had died of AIDS and many types of cancer.

Prosecutors in the case said Lai had intimidated theOriental Daily reporter.

Lai’s lawyers said Lai had been followed by reporters forthree years and his comments were not intended to harm thereporter but expressed his exasperation.

Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assemblyrelating to anti-government protests last year.

(Reporting by Yanni Chow; writing by Farah Master; editing byPhilippa Fletcher)

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