SEOUL (REUTERS) - The impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun Hye has no legal foundation, her lawyers argued on Friday (Dec 16), as they submitted their defence against her ouster to the country’s highest court.
Parliament voted to impeach Ms Park last week over a corruption scandal in which she allegedly colluded with a friend to strong-arm donations from large conglomerates to two dubious foundations.
The case is now being considered by the Constitutional Court which has 180 days to rule on the validity of the impeachment that charged Ms Park with multiple criminal and constitutional violations – ranging from bribery to abuse of power.
Submitting a 24-page rebuttal to the court, one of her lawyers, Lee Joong Hwan, said the charges lacked any evidential grounds.
“We can’t accept that there was any violation of the constitution by the president... the impeachment motion should be rejected,” Mr Lee told reporters.
Ms Park has formally been identified as a suspect in what is an ongoing criminal investigation – a first for a sitting South Korean president.
She is accused of ordering aides to leak confidential state documents to her friend, Choi Soon-Sil, who has no official title or security clearance, and allowing her to meddle in some state affairs, including the appointment of top officials.
Ms Park faces the looming prospect of having her presidential palace raided by prosecutors, despite the objections of her aides.
“We came to believe that it is necessary to raid certain parts of the (presidential) Blue House,” Mr Lee Kyu Chul, a spokesman for the team of independent prosecutors on the case, said on Friday.
The team – appointed by lawmakers – has recently taken over investigations by government prosecutors who had sought to raid Park’s office in October but were turned away at the gate.
Ms Park’s office has objected to any raid on the Blue House, citing a criminal code that bans any such action on state facilities deemed to be militarily important.
She also faces growing pressure to explain what she was doing on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster that killed 300 people in 2014.
The impeachment motion accused her of failing to protect the lives of South Korean citizens.
Testimony by several ex-presidential aides to a parliamentary investigative committee suggested Ms Park had stayed in her residence after being informed of the unfolding crisis involving the sinking ferry.
Following media reports that she spent the first critical hours having her hair styled, a group of Seoul lawmakers visited the Blue House on Friday as part of their committee’s probe.
We will meet with the stylists handling Ms Park’s hair and makeup in the Blue House to investigate how much time she spent on hair and makeup on the fateful day,” one lawmaker said before entering the complex.