Friday, April 16, 2021

Lawyers for ousted South Korean leader Park deny charges


tiamin rice

This general view shows the Seoul Central District Court where will be held trials of ousted South Korean president Park Geun-Hye, in Seoul on May 2, 2017. Lawyers for ousted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye denied all the charges against her at a hearing on May 2 before she goes on trial. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je

Lawyers for ousted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye denied all the charges against her at a hearing Tuesday before she goes on trial.

Park, 65, was sacked by the country’s top court in March over a wide-ranging corruption scandal and has been held in custody for more than a month.

She faces 18 criminal counts — five of bribery and 11 of abuse of power, plus one each of coercion and leaking government secrets.

“We deny all the charges,” Park’s top lawyer Yoo Young-Ha told the Seoul Central District Court.

Park’s attendance at the hearing was not mandatory and she stayed away from the court.

In South Korea, a preliminary hearing is to review the charges brought against a suspect and determine future proceedings.

Yoo said the defence had been overwhelmed by the prosecution’s 120,000 pages of investigation records and needed more time to go over them.

The court decided to hold another session next week and open full proceedings a week later.

The scandal centres on Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-Sil, who is already on trial.

When indicting Park last month, prosecutors asserted that Park, in collusion with Choi, took or was promised bribes totalling 59.2 billion won ($52 million) from three South Korean companies, Samsung, Lotte and SK, in return for policy favours.

She has also been charged with coercing 18 large firms to “donate” a total of 77.4 billion won to two dubious foundations controlled by Choi.

Park, daughter of the late dictator Park Chung-Hee, spent nearly two decades living in Seoul’s sprawling presidential palace before the corruption allegations engulfed her presidency late last year.

The scandal sent her once-bulletproof approval ratings to record lows with millions taking to the streets for months calling for her ousting, though she also had a loyal following from groups of mainly older rival protesters.

Park’s downfall has given the left-leaning Democratic Party the upper hand in the May 9 presidential election.

Its candidate Moon Jae-In was on 39.3 percent in a JoongAng Ilbo opinion poll published Tuesday, giving him a commanding lead over centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo of the People’s Party (21.8 percent) and Hong Joon-Pyo of Park’s Liberty Korea Party (16.5 percent).

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