South Korea acquits family of 8 convicted of spying 35 years ago

SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean court on Friday overturned a 35-year old conviction of spying for North Korea against a family of eight, two of whom were executed in the early 1980s.

The district court in the eastern city of Chuncheon ruled that the eight had been illegally detained and then tortured to extract confessions, the Yonhap news agency reported. "There is no admissible evidence for finding them guilty," the court ruled.

The eight were arrested and convicted in 1979 on charges of being recruited by a North Korean spy, organising an underground espionage ring and conveying military secrets to the North.

Two were sentenced to death and executed in 1983. Two others received life sentences - finally being released under a general pardon in 1998 - and four were jailed for up to 10 years.

The case was reviewed on the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in 2005 to probe abuses committed under the decades of authoritarian military rule that followed the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The commission has dealt with multiple miscarriages of justice, where spying charges were manufactured against organisations or individuals seen as a political threat.