14 anti-WTO protesters to stand trial

A Hong Kong judge has denied bail to 14 protesters detained for allegedly taking part in violent anti-WTO demonstrations, ordering them to remain in custody until charges are brought later this week, officials said Tuesday. The accused, including 11 Koreans, a Japanese, and a Taiwanese, sought bail late Monday, but a magistrate rejected their request and adjourned their case until Friday, said Judiciary spokesman Mackenzie Mak.

The protesters, mostly South Korean farmers, were among more than 1,100 people arrested near the World Trade Organization venue following Saturday's protests, the city's worst violence in decades. The demonstrators attacked police with bamboo poles and rammed them with metal barricades near the venue of the World Trade Organization meeting. Police scattered the crowds with tear gas and pepper spray. The clashes injured 175 people, including 64 police officers. Most of those arrested were set free Monday.

The protesters oppose a further opening up of their domestic markets, which they say threaten their livelihoods. The summit ended Sunday with trade ministers around the world agreeing to eliminate farm export subsidies by 2013. Defense lawyer Wong Shui-hung, representing 13 defendants, complained about the conditions in which they were held, the South China Morning Post reported.

Magistrate Garry Tallentire said he was sympathetic and ordered that the conditions be improved, the Post said. If convicted, the protesters face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Prosecution said in court that some defendants may face more serious charges of assaulting police and criminal damage, according to the Apple Daily newspaper, reports the AP. I.L.

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