HONG KONG — Three leaders of protests that filled Hong Kong streets for weeks had their prison sentences thrown out by Hong Kong’s highest court on Tuesday, in a case that has drawn international scrutiny over accusations that the government was carrying out prosecutions to punish political opponents.
Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law had been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to eight months for their roles in the 2014 protests, known as the Umbrella Movement.
Their imprisonment last year had led some pro-democracy politicians to call them “political prisoners,” an accusation the Hong Kong government rejected.
Mr. Wong and Mr. Law had originally been sentenced to community service, while Mr. Chow had been given a suspended jail term. But prosecutors appealed for tougher punishments, and the Court of Appeal handed down jail terms last year. While the three were released on bail as they appealed those jail terms, the sentences prevented them from pursuing political office for five years.
Their jailing spurred international criticism and protests in Hong Kong. Some critics said the ruling threatened the reputation of Hong Kong’s legal system and was a sign that its courts were under growing pressure from mainland China.