Top South Korea court confirms jail term for pro-North MP
SEOUL - South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a nine-year prison sentence for a former leftist lawmaker convicted of inciting an armed revolt in the event of war breaking out with North Korea.
Lee Seok-Ki, a key member of the now-disbanded leftwing United Progressive Party (UPP), was first convicted of plotting a rebellion in February after a rare sedition trial involving a sitting member of the National Assembly.
But the 12-year sentence he received was reduced to nine-years on appeal after the high court ruled that Lee had not actually plotted a rebellion, but only encouraged one.
Thursday's ruling agreed there was no proof that an organisation for rebellion actually existed, and that Lee's guilt was therefore confined to the charge of incitement.
Chief Justice Yang Sung-Tae also confirmed that Lee, 53, had violated the South's strict National Security Law by praising North Korea.
The court upheld jail sentences of up to five years for six other UPP members, who were similarly convicted of security law violations.
Lee has continued to protest his innocence, saying the comments he made in speeches to his supporters were misinterpreted.
"Our judicial justice is dead," Lee, 53, shouted before being escorted by security guards out of the Supreme Court following Thursday's ruling.
Outside, about 150 leftist protestors -- guarded by hundreds of riot police -- shouted anti-government slogans and called for Lee's immediate release.
Nearby, a 300-strong group of conservative activists held a rally urging a strong crackdown on pro-North Korean groups.
Lee's treason trial had been the first of a lawmaker since the country's transformation from a military-backed autocracy to a fully-fledged democracy in the 1980s.
The National Security Law was adopted in 1948 to protect the fledgling government in the South against espionage from the North.
Rights activists have accused past administrations of using it to silence political opposition.
Last month the constitutional court disbanded Lee's party and ordered the forfeiture of all of its five seats in parliament after ruling its platform supported North Korea's ideological doctrine.
Rights groups denounced the decision saying that it flew in the face of freedom of expression.