A woman accused of being a co-conspirator in the blackmail of a member of a religious group over gay sex acts applied yesterday to have her trial halted permanently on the basis that she would not have a fair trial.
Li Dora Kay, 59, applied for a permanent stay of proceedings in the District Court after she pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to blackmail. She is accused of scheming with Cheung Ka-wo to extort more than HK$6.3 million from the head of a religious group and a senior staff member of that group, identified only as 'X', between April and May 2009.
Cheung, 28, a doctoral student in economics at Chinese University, was jailed in September for four years for his crime, which the judge called despicable and an 'attempted murder of the soul'. The court found he was not a mastermind.
At the start of the trial, Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong said a gagging order was still active, preventing the media from revealing the identities of the victims or the religious group. Despite the reporting restriction which has been in force since Cheung's trial, the prosecution told the court yesterday that a media group faced possible prosecution for contempt of court for revealing the identity of 'X'.
The court also heard, for the first time, that Li and Cheung also allegedly approached X's brother and sister, demanding compensation.
In an attempt to stop the prosecution, Shahmim Khattak, for Li, contended that as 'X' had declined to testify because of poor health, Li was deprived of the chance to cross-examine 'X', resulting in an unfair trial. The court heard 'X' had suffered depression since the incident.
Khattak also argued that witnesses who were due to give evidence would have been adversely influenced by previous media reports which he said had 'painted a picture that [Li] was a mastermind' of the blackmail.
He said some media coverage of the case was 'extensive, sensational, inaccurate and misleading' and created a real risk to his client.
But the judge said such a potential risk, if it existed, could be remedied by cross-examination, during which witnesses' evidence could be challenged and reviewed.
Khattak alleged that the police might have passed sensitive information undisclosed in court to the media, including photos of Cheung and X, which were published by a magazine.
Public prosecutor Robert Lee Kan-yung denied that police leaked any information.
Khattak also said it was unfair to Li that she was being tried separately from Cheung when they were accused of being in a joint enterprise.
The judge will deliver a ruling on the application today.