Twitter user acquitted of charges for following North Korea

The court still sentenced the man to one year in prison for praising North Korea propaganda on his blog.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 21, 2016 at 10:06 AM
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SEOUL, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- A South Korean man was acquitted Thursday after prosecutors indicted him for following a North Korea account on Twitter.

These and other charges against the defendant, who was identified only by his surname Lee, were alleged violations of the South's anti-communist National Security Law.

On Thursday, a Seoul court ruled that Lee, 73, was found not guilty of violating the law solely based on his Twitter activities, Yonhap reported.

The court still sentenced Lee to one year in prison, suspended for two years, for praising North Korea propaganda on his blog.

South Korean newspaper Maeil Business reported Lee first opened his Twitter account in November 2009, and began to follow the North Korea account belonging to Pyongyang's media outlet Uriminzokkiri, which has published propaganda targeting South Koreans.

Lee retweeted posts from the North Korea account 169 times, enabling the tweets to be seen on his profile page, as well as following up on his social networking activities with blog posts that praised the North Korea regime.

Seoul prosecutors charged Lee with violating South Korea's anti-communist law because he was "promulgating" content banned in the South through his Twitter posts.

The posts, however, were not sufficient cause to indict Lee of legal violations, according to Shim Wu-yong, the presiding judge, because of the nature of Twitter and the retweet function.

"The 169 posts sourced from the Uriminzokkiri account only appeared on the profile page of the defendant, and therefore cannot be seen as 'promulgation' since the content did not appear on a third-party page," the judge said in his statement.

Critics of South Korea's National Security Law call it a relic of the Cold War.

Last May, Human Rights Watch stated the law undermines the free exchange of opinions that are fundamental to a rights-respecting democracy.

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