The appeals court’s acquittal of Unified Progressive Party legislator Lee Seok-ki Monday of the charge of plotting an insurrection cleared the minor opposition lawmaker of a key charge against him. The court, however, stuck with the findings of the first trial, which judged him guilty of leading an incitement of insurrection and violating the National Security Law.
In finding Lee not guilty of plotting an insurrection, the appeals court apparently applied a strict interpretation of the offense. To constitute plotting an insurrection, mutual agreement among organization members on the acts of insurrection are necessary, the court said. In the case of Lee, the court found that there was insufficient evidence to charge the leftist lawmaker with plotting, although it found him guilty of the lesser charge of leading an incitement of insurrection based on comments made during a lecture in May 2013.
The appeals court also found insufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that an alleged illegal underground revolutionary party, the so-called “Revolutionary Organization,” actually existed. The National Intelligence Service, which claimed to have pursued the “RO” case for over three years, was unable to build a watertight case that could stand up to the close scrutiny of the court, which found testimony by an informant to be insufficient evidence.
With the new ruling, Lee’s sentence has been reduced to nine years in jail and a seven-year ban on serving in the National Assembly from the previous 12-year jail term and 10-year ban on serving in the National Assembly handed out in February.
The reduced sentence does not absolve Lee from the grievous charge of leading an incitement of rebellion and violating the National Security Law. These crimes are even more grave and unacceptable when they are perpetrated by a legislator elected to uphold the law of the land.
With the appeals court ruling that there is insufficient evidence to conclude the existence of the “RO,” the Justice Ministry’s request to disband the Unified Progressive Party based on the claim that the party is dominated by Lee’s “RO”-centered faction may face a hurdle in the Constitutional Court.
The appeals court ruling gives the impression of a compromise, finding Lee guilty of leading an incitement of insurrection but not guilty of plotting one. By admitting that the court has suspicions about the existence of “RO” but insufficient evidence to confirm its existence, the court has given the prosecution an opportunity to rebuild its case. When the case goes before the Supreme Court, the prosecution must present solid evidence.