|The Supreme Court building in Seocho District, southern Seoul / Korea Times file|
By Lee Hae-rin
The nation's top court has found two Muslims residing here guilty of intimidation for posting flyers on the wall of the French Embassy in Seoul to protest the country's "anti-Muslim" stance in 2020.
The Supreme Court said, Monday, it recently confirmed a lower court decision that issued a suspended prison sentence and of 3 million won ($2,535) to a Russian, 26, and a Kyrgyzstani, 26, on charges of intimidation. A suspended sentence, or the suspension of the execution of a sentence, is applied to minor offenses.
The two people were arrested for posting multiple flyers with threatening messages on the walls of the French embassy in Seoul and a nearby building at around 10 p.m. on Nov. 1 of last year.
The messages read, "Do not insult Muslims," and "Those who point the sword at us will be killed by the sword." Pictures of French President Emmanuel Macron painted with a red X mark were posted as well, according to police.
The incident came amid growing anti-France sentiment among the Muslim community. In October last year, a French history teacher in a Paris suburb was decapitated by a Muslim extremist for presenting in class a caricature of the prophet Muhammad from the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
The French president shut down several mosques in the country and made tough remarks against Muslim extremists, sparking anti-France protests in Islamic countries.
The two men claimed their acts should be socially tolerated within the boundaries of freedom of religion or expression.
A local court found them guilty of intimidation, but not guilty of threatening a foreign ambassador, saying the threats were for the staff of the embassy in general and not specifically the top envoy.
The judge handed down a six-month prison term, suspended for one year, to both of them. But an appellate court commuted it to a suspended sentence, although it also recognized they were guilty of intimidation. The high court recognized the convicted men had served in jail for almost six months because they had been behind bars since the lower court ruling was made.
The high court viewed that the men intended to protest against the French president's actions at the time for religious reasons, but did not intend to inflict physical harm. It said it also recognized that they apologized to the embassy staff, while no evidence of a plan to commit more serious crimes was found and they had committed no other crimes during their three-year stay in Korea.
The Supreme Court upheld the appellate court's ruling.
The Russian national, who had overstayed his visa at the time of the crime, was deported at the end of last month right after the top court's ruling. The Kyrgyzstani, who had been taking a graduate course here, told immigration authorities that he would voluntarily leave the country by the end of the year, according to the court.