Hong Kong frees 14 WTO protesters on bail

Fourteen anti-World Trade Organization protesters, mostly South Koreans, were released on bail Friday in Hong Kong after being charged over holding an illegal sit-in on a major thoroughfare after violent riots last week. The protesters are charged with taking part in an illegal assembly, punishable by up to five years in prison. The case has been adjourned until next Friday.

The Kwun Tong Magistrate's Court ordered 13 of the 14 demonstrators, who also include a Taiwanese, a Japanese and mainland Chinese, to each pay 2,500 Hong Kong dollars (US$320; Ђ272) in bail. They also had to surrender their passports to authorities, and must report to police daily.

The Taiwanese defendant, university student Lee Chien-cheng, was allowed to return to Taiwan for exams but he must have a guarantor pay a cash surety of HK$100,000 (US$12,900; Ђ10,900) on his behalf, in addition to bail.

Dozens of supporters rallied outside the courthouse Friday, chanting, "We support you" in Korean, and "down, down WTO" in English.

The defendants were among more than 1,000 people arrested early Sunday after occupying one lane of a busy downtown Hong Kong thoroughfare to protest against the WTO, which held a ministerial meeting here last week.

The sit-in came after demonstrators, many of them South Korean farmers, tried to storm the meeting venue, attacking police officers with bamboo sticks and ramming them with metal barricades, reports the AP. I.L.

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