The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the retrial of eight Sunflower movement figures sentenced last year to two to four years in prison over their roles in the occupation of the Executive Yuan in 2014.
In remanding the case to the High Court, the Supreme Court said that the defendants were exercising “civil disobedience” and should receive more lenient sentences.
The High Court in April last year sentenced the Sunflower movement figures, including Dennis Wei (魏揚), for inciting others to commit crimes related to the occupation of the Executive Yuan complex during the 23-day protest.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
The defendants appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
In its ruling yesterday, the court revoked the guilty verdicts and ordered a retrial, based on the argument that the defendants were exercising their “right of resistance” or “civil disobedience” as part of their right to freedom of expression.
The “right of resistance” is used to protect and restore a democratic constitutional order, and is legal and legitimate under the Constitution, the court said.
Although the Constitution does not explicitly stipulate the “right to resistance,” it should still be recognized based on the constitutional principles under popular sovereignty, it said.
Therefore, behavior that exercises the “right of resistance” can be used to defeat or mitigate the legal consequences of what might otherwise be unlawful conduct, it said.
The court can apply these rules related to behavior under extenuating circumstances, such as cases of self-defense, to reduce a defendant’s sentence or overrule any unlawful conduct, it added.
The court ruling also said that the High Court did not look into the reason for the defendants’ behavior, nor did it thoroughly investigate and explain if that behavior constituted the crime of inciting others to commit crimes.
The Sunflower movement was a protest against the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s handling of a trade in services agreement with China. It began after then-KMT legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) rushed through the agreement without debate on March 17, 2014.
During almost 23 days of protests from March 18 to April 10, hundreds of people broke into the Legislative Yuan, while thousands demonstrated outside the complex.
One group, which included the eight defendants, attempted to occupy the nearby Executive Yuan on March 23, but were forcibly removed by police during the early hours of March 24.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office indicted them in 2015 for inciting others to commit crimes, obstructing officials in carrying out their duties and damaging government property.
During the first trial, the Taipei District Court found them all not guilty. Prosecutors later appealed to the High Court, which overturned the initial verdicts.
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