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Day 76: May 14, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 76 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Both Prosecution and Defense Present Arguments on the Request to Re-summon Cheung Kim-hung

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and three related companies of Apple Daily, is charged with conspiring to collude with foreign forces, among other accusations. The case proceeded on its 76th day on Tuesday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, which are temporarily serving as the High Court. After the prosecution finished examining six key witnesses, the defense requested the re-summoning of the accomplice witness former Next Media CEO Cheung Kim-hung for questioning about the Slack platform. On Monday, the prosecution had called defense lawyer Johnny Ho to testify on this matter.

Ho stated that during the 18th day of the trial in January this year, Cheung Kim-hung first mentioned the Slack platform under questioning. The defense had requested Slack records from the prosecution, who responded that they had none. After an investigation, the defense eventually obtained the records, a process described as “not easy,” ultimately informed by Lai’s daughter that the legal team had obtained the Slack records.

The case is being presided over by Judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang, designated under the National Security Law. Representing the prosecution are Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Public Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum. Lai is represented by senior barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung, barrister Steven Kwan, and Marc Corlett, a barrister with practicing rights in Hong Kong from New Zealand.

15:25 Court adjourns

15:07 Judge to decide on re-summoning Cheung Kim-hung on Thursday

After the defense sought instructions, prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang made his statement. He argued that the defense knew about the Slack records before Cheung Kim-hung testified and mentioned that the prosecution’s duty was only to present evidence. After hearing both sides’ submissions, Judges stated that they would make a decision on whether to re-summon Cheung Kim-hung on Thursday morning. The prosecution also stated that, at the defense’s request, five police officers would be summoned and ready to testify on that day.

14:40 Judge Questions Delay in Discovering Records; Defense: Easy to Lose Sight of the Tree for the Forest

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping expressed, “I expect the barristers to focus on this crucial part (Slack),” to which the defense described themselves as “easy to lose sight of the tree for the forest.” Toh, hearing this, stated, “We also spent a lot of time reading the documents of this case, but you have the assistance of a large team!”

Regarding defense lawyer Johnny Ho’s statement on Monday (14th) that Lai’s daughter informed him they had obtained Slack records, Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang suggested that if the defense wishes to include the relevant records as evidence in this case without summoning Cheung Kim-hung, they could potentially summon Lai’s daughter to testify. The defense responded that this would only be the case if the court refused the defense’s request to re-summon Cheung, asserting that assumptions should not be made.

Toh pressed the defense, asking, “What reasonable cause exists that you did not point out the Slack issue to Cheung?” The defense explained they did not have screenshots of the Slack records. Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios further noted that Jimmy Lai was one of the members of the Slack group. The case was adjourned for 10 minutes, waiting for the defense to seek instructions from Jimmy Lai.

14:36 Judge States Defense “Cannot Shift the Blame onto the Prosecution”

Defense Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung stated that he believes the court has read the written submissions for the defense’s request to re-summon “accomplice witness” former Next Media CEO Cheung Kim-hung, and orally supplemented in court that the work platform Slack was not previously mentioned during the trial. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang noted that it is undisputed that Jimmy Lai indeed attended the “Lunchbox Meetings,” but questioned whether he was always unaware of the relevant records.

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping pointed out that it was the defense that first brought up Slack, highlighting to the witness that a chat group was set up prior to the “Lunchbox Meetings.” Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios also noted that Slack was a primary communication system for Apple Daily, and since the prosecution was unaware of Slack’s introduction, she questioned how the defense expected the prosecution to know of Slack’s existence, stating, “You can’t shift the blame onto the prosecution.”

14:34 Court Session Begins

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