S.Korean court extends detention of ex-president Park over corruption charges
A South Korean court on Friday decided to extend the detention of impeached President Park Geun-hye who has been in custody and stood trial over corruption charges including bribery.
Impeached President Park Geun-hye is to face an extended detention of six more months. [Photo: VCG]
The Seoul Central District Court issued another arrest warrant for Park, which allows the former leader to be detained for as long as six more months.
Park was taken into custody in late March after the constitutional court approved her impeachment over a corruption scandal embroiling Park and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.
The initial arrest warrant was scheduled to terminate next Monday. By local law, a criminal suspect can be detained as long as six months with a detention warrant.
The court was quoted by local media outlets as saying the extended detention can be justified and be needed on "worry about the destruction of evidences."
Prosecutors have claimed the extended detention, saying that if Park stands trial without detention, she would not appear in the court hearings citing health problem or preparations for pleading.
Park had not attended the court hearings several times citing health problems such as a toe pain.
Park's attorneys also asked for numerous witnesses' appearance in the court, triggering criticism that she attempted to intentionally delay the hearings for the purpose of standing trial without detention.
With the new detention warrant, Park can be detained by next April, but prosecutors reportedly planned to complete the questioning of witnesses inside the courtroom by the end of next month.
To speed up the completion of the testimonies, the court had held three or four hearings every week.
Local media speculations said the first trial ruling would be made by the end of this year.
The additional arrest warrant was issued on charges of taking bribes from SK Group and Lotte Group, South Korea's No. 3 and No. 5 family-run conglomerates respectively.
The first South Korean female leader became the first president to be impeached before the end of five-year tenure.
Park was accused of taking bribes from Samsung Group, South Korea's biggest family-controlled chaebol, of which an heir apparent Lee Jae-yong was sentenced in August to five years in prison for the bribery.
Samsung was suspected of providing illegal funds for an equestrian training of the daughter of Choi, Park's decades-long friend, as well as to a German company owned by Choi.
Samsung and other conglomerates were suspected of making illegal contributions to Choi-controlled foundations in return for business favors.
Samsung made the biggest donation to the two nonprofit foundations allegedly in return for the Park administration's help in Lee's inheritance of management control of Samsung Group from his ailing father Lee Kun-hee who has been in hospital for about three and a half years after heart attack.
Responses to Park's additional detention were divided. The ruling Democratic Party said the extension confirmed a rule of law and a principle being alive.
The centrist People's Party and the minor conservative Righteous Party expressed respect for the court's decision, and the minor progressive Justice Party said it was an inevitable corollary.
However, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party resisted the decision, saying the court succumbed to pressure in the political arena.