Previously suspended lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka Hou resumed his seat in the Legislative Assembly (AL) Tuesday after the legislature had finally received a notification from the Court of First Instance (TJB) confirming that last month’s judgement which imposed a fine on him for illegal assembly and demonstration has become legally binding.
Following the resumption of his legislative duties, Sou, a member of the legislature’s 3rd Standing Committee, then attended a closed-door meeting of the committee Tuesday, which is reviewing, article-by-article, a government-initiated bill on tax benefits for those employing disabled people.
On May 29, the Court of First Instance found Sou and fellow non-establishment activist Scott Chiang Meng Hin guilty of illegal assembly and demonstration and fined them 40,800 patacas and 27,600 patacas respectively. Chiang is said to be unemployed. Sou continued to receive his salary as a lawmaker also during his suspension from the Legislative Assembly.
After the announcement of the sentences on May 29, both the prosecution and the defence could appeal the TJB ruling until June 25.
According to The Macau Post Daily on Monday last week, Sou and Chiang each filed an appeal against last month’s TJB ruling which found both guilty of illegal assembly and demonstration – the deadline for the two defendants and the prosecution to appeal.
On Wednesday last week, Sou said in a statement that he would withdrew his appeal submitted two days before and that he would pay the fine imposed by the court so that he could resume his legislative duties as early as possible.
Sou said in last Wednesday’s statement that he initially filed the appeal in case the Public Prosecution Office (MP) had decided to appeal his sentence as well, which ultimately could have resulted in a heavier penalty. Sou, a first-time lawmaker, said as it turned out that the Public Prosecution Office did not appeal by the given deadline, he decided, as initially planned, to withdraw his appeal.
Last Wednesday’s statement, Sou said that Chiang would, however, go ahead with his separate appeal. Both Sou and Chiang were sentenced in the same trial for the same offence. Sou said at that time that the aim of Chiang’s appeal was for the Court of Second Instance (TSI) to “clarify” fundamental issues about residents’ basic right to hold assemblies and demonstrations.
Last Friday, the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) said in a statement that Sou submitted the withdrawal of his appeal against last month’s TJB ruling last Thursday. On the Friday, the Court of First Instance declared Sou’s sentence final.
Following last Friday’s TUI statement, Sou told the media later that day that he expected to resume his legislative duties as early as July 2 as he had already paid his fine.
Tuesday, Sou went to the legislature to check whether he could resume his legislative duties. The legislature’s staff told him at 10:15 a.m. that the Legislative Assembly had already received a TJB document showing that his sentence has been declared legally binding and that he could therefore resume his legislative duties right away. The resumption of his duties allowed Sou to attend the meeting of the 3rd Standing Committee which started at 10:30 a.m.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the committee meeting, Sou said that he would continue to disclose information about the legislature’s closed-door committee meetings, for which he has been criticised by pro-establishment lawmakers in the past.
During a plenary session on December 4 last year, Sou was suspended from the Legislative Assembly, when 28 of the 33 members of the legislature voted for his suspension so that he could stand trial for alleged aggravated disobedience.
It was the first suspension of a lawmaker since the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) in December 1999.
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 an offence allegedly committed by a lawmaker that is punishable by less than three years must be authorised by the legislature.
Sou, 27, is a vice-president of the non-establishment New Macau Association (NMA). He’s a full-time lawmaker. The master’s degree student holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from a Taiwan university.