Jimmy Lai’s legal team submits a plea to the United Nations, claiming that there exists proof of the witness undergoing torture.

Concerns have been raised by the team representing Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai regarding the testimony of a former democracy activist who was imprisoned in China.

The legal team handling Lai’s case has urgently appealed to the United Nations special rapporteur on torture concerning one of the main prosecution witnesses in Lai’s trial.

Lai’s lawyers claim that there is reliable evidence indicating that Andy Li, a former pro-democracy activist of 33 years old, was subjected to torture while imprisoned in mainland China before confessing to conspiring with Lai to collude with foreign forces, one of the two national security law offenses Lai has been charged with. The other being a sedition offense from the colonial era. Lai has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

If convicted, Lai, who is 76 years old, could potentially be sentenced to life imprisonment, a result that both his supporters and international legal experts believe to be inevitable given the circumstances surrounding national security cases in Hong Kong.

Li was among a group of 12 Hong Kong activists who attempted to flee to Taiwan by speedboat in August 2020. He was detained in a prison in Shenzhen, a city located in southern China, for seven months due to illegal border crossing. In March 2021, he was sent back to Hong Kong, where he faced charges of conspiring with foreign powers. In August of the same year, he pleaded guilty as a co-conspirator alongside Lai’s aide Mark Simon and activist Finn Lau, who is currently based in the UK.

Li is now a crucial witness for the prosecution in Lai’s high-profile trial and will be sentenced after its conclusion.

During his detention in China, the “Hong Kong 12” were denied the ability to choose their own lawyers, and there were reports of mistreatment. They were allegedly kept in solitary confinement with constant lighting. In December, the Washington Post published an article stating that Li experienced particularly brutal treatment in China, with consistent screams heard from his cell.

In 2021, the UN’s independent expert on human rights defenders mentioned “countless reports” of treatment that could be classified as torture and other forms of degrading or inhumane treatment in Chinese prisons.

Currently, Li is being held in a psychiatric facility in Hong Kong, a situation that Lai’s international legal team finds deeply concerning. It is expected that Li will testify as a witness in the coming weeks.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, the leader of Lai’s international legal team, stated, “There is solid evidence that Andy Li has endured torture, inhumane treatment, and that his testimony has been coerced. Despite this, the prosecution in Jimmy Lai’s trial has explicitly stated that they are relying on Andy Li as a crucial witness… They now have to respond to the United Nations. Evidence obtained through torture and coercion should never be considered valid.”

Lai’s international legal team is responsible for managing the international aspect of his case and is not connected to his local defense counsel, who is handling the proceedings in Hong Kong. The defense’s arguments have yet to be heard in court.

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