The Court of First Instance (TJB) postponed the trial of directly-elected lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka Hou and fellow non-establishment activist Scott Chiang Meng Hin for alleged aggravated disobedience on Tuesday, as the outcome of a ruling to be made by the Court of Second Instance (TSI) in response to an interim injunction by Sou may affect the ongoing trial of the case.
The decision was made by the TJB judge Cheong Weng Tong, during the first hearing of the trial on Tuesday.
During a plenary session on December 4, Sou was suspended from the Legislative Assembly, when 28 of the 33 members of the legislature voted for his suspension so that he can stand trial for the alleged crime.
It is the first suspension of a lawmaker since the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) in December 1999.
According to Cheong, Sou filed an interim injunction with the Court of Second Instance on January 4 requesting the suspension of his peers’ decision to suspend him as a lawmaker. Sou also filed an appeal with the Court of Second Instance on January 8 concerning his suspension from the legislature, according to Cheong.
In a statement last week, Sou said that he had filed an appeal with the Court of Second Instance over certain legal matters concerning the process and procedure of his suspension as a lawmaker in December. Sou said at that time that his appeal was merely for an “independent body” to examine the legality of the process and procedure of his suspension by his peers. Sou claimed in the statement last week that “several flaws” affected the process and procedure of his suspension during the plenary session on December 4.
According to Cheong, if the Court of Second Instance decided to accept Sou’s interim injunction, it would mean that Sou could resume his legislative duties temporarily, adding it would mean that the trial could not go ahead during the period when he is carrying out his legislative duties.
The legislature said in a statement on November 13 that the Court of First Instance had requested the legislature to make a decision on whether Sou was to be suspended as a lawmaker so that he could stand trial for the alleged crime.
Prosecution of offences allegedly committed by a lawmaker that are punishable by less than three years must be authorised by the legislature.
According to Article 312 of the Macau Penal Code, aggravated disobedience is punishable by a fine or up to two years behind bars.
Cheong said during Tuesday’s trial that considering that the Court of Second Instance has not yet made a decision as to whether it will accept Sou’s interim injunction requesting the suspension of his peers’ decision to suspend him as a lawmaker, as well as the continuation of the trial, she decided that the trial should not go ahead, adding that the court would decide on the new date of the trial only after the Court of Second makes its decision.
Cheong said that the Court of Second Instance has notified her court about Sou’s interim injunction requesting the suspension of his peers’ decision to suspend him as a lawmaker and Sou’s appeal concerning his suspension from the legislature.
Sou’s defence lawyer, Jorge Menezes, apologised for not having told the Court of First Instance about Sou’s interim injunction and appeal to the Court of Second Instance.
Sou and Chiang stand accused of aggravated disobedience in the wake of a demonstration in May 2016 against the public Macau Foundation’s controversial decision to donate 100 million yuan (122 million patacas) to Jinan University in Guangzhou. Pedro Leal is Chiang’s lawyer.
Meanwhile, due to time constraints the legislature failed to debate and vote as previously scheduled on a draft resolution by two lawmakers in response to Sou having filed an appeal with the Court of Second Instance over certain legal matters concerning his suspension.
The draft resolution jointly proposed by indirectly-elected legislators Vong Hin Fai and Kou Hoi In asserts that according to the Legislative Assembly Lawmakers Statute the act of deciding whether a lawmaker should be suspended by his or her peers and the act of deciding whether a lawmaker should be disqualified are both “political acts”, insisting that such acts are not to be interfered with by any other entities or individuals, so as not to affect the operations of Macau’s political system stipulated by the Macau Basic Law.
According to the Macau Post Daily, the draft resolution aims to ban suspended legislators from being able to appeal to the courts in an attempt to overturn their suspension.
The legislature is expected to debate and vote today on the draft resolution, which has been strongly criticised by some members of the legal fraternity.