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South Korea court sentences opposition member of parliament to 12 years

The Suwon District Court in South Korea on Monday sentenced Lee Soek-ki [WSJ news archive] to 12 years in jail for plotting a pro-North Korea rebellion. Lee, a member of the opposition United Progressive Party [party website, in Korean] in South Korea's National Assembly [official website], was arrested in September on charges that he discussed strikes on South Korea's infrastructure [Guardian report] in the event of a war with North Korea in violation of South Koreas's National Security Act. The district court held [Reuters report] that Lee's planned revolt posed a risk despite the fact that the conflict between North and South Korea did not occur that year. Lee member of parliament sentenced under the National Security Act since democratic elections took place in 1988 and his arrest has raised concerns that the South Korean government is violating free speech [LAT report].

Lee's prosecution is not the first instance of South Korea using the National Security Act to suppress free speech and expression. In November, 2010, South Korea's high court ruled [JURIST report] that pro-North Korean music violates the National Security Act. In September 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized South Korea [press release] for using the act to restrict speech that does not pose a threat to national security and stated that the use of the law "clear violates South Korea's international human rights obligations. However, in 2004 an estimated 100,000 protesters [JURIST report] gathered to rally against calls to repeal the Act.

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