S. Korea court reduces treason sentence for lawmaker

SEOUL - A South Korean legislator jailed for 12 years for plotting an armed revolt in support of North Korea had his sentence reduced on appeal Monday, a court spokesman said.

Lee Seok-Ki, an MP for the now-disbanded leftwing United Progressive Party, was convicted in February after a rare sedition trial of a sitting member of the National Assembly.

Prosecutors had originally sought a 20-year jail term, saying Lee and a small group of supporters had drawn up plans for an armed revolt in case of a full-scale conflict breaking out with the North.

A regional court gave him 12 years, but that was reduced to nine years Monday by the Seoul High Court after it overturned one of the guilty verdicts.

While agreeing that Lee had violated the National Security Law by praising North Korea and inciting armed revolt, the appeals bench ruled that he had not actually organised a group to stage the uprising, the court spokesman told AFP.

The high-profile trial was the first of a lawmaker on treason charges since the country's transformation from a military-backed autocracy to a fully-fledged democracy in the 1980s.

The anti-communism National Security Law was adopted in 1948 to protect the fledgling government in the South against espionage from the North.

Rights activists have accused past administrations of using it to silence political opposition.