SEOUL • Defence lawyers for South Korea's ousted president Park Geun Hye resigned en masse yesterday in protest against what they called a biased corruption trial, as the former leader described the proceedings as "political revenge".
Park faces multiple charges, including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering government favours to tycoons, and is being held in custody.
She was impeached by Parliament after months of mass protests against her over a sprawling corruption scandal, and the constitutional court upheld the decision in March, dismissing her from office. She went on criminal trial in May.
The warrant for Park's detention was extended for six months last week, with the court citing the risk that she could destroy evidence if released.
At yesterday's hearing, all seven of her lawyers submitted their resignations. They protested against the extension of the warrant, saying the principle of the presumption of innocence was "collapsing", according to Yonhap news agency.
"As we have reached a conclusion that any defence argument for the defendant is meaningless, all of us decided to resign," lawyer Yoo Yeong Ha told the court.
The court asked them to reconsider since the proceedings cannot continue without defence lawyers.
State attorneys will be appointed to defend Park if her own lawyers insist on withdrawing, but the replacement will take time as new representatives would have to review more than 100,000 pages of evidence.
Park said she had "come to the conclusion that it is meaningless to believe that the court will handle the case only in accordance with the Constitution and conscience", in the face of external political winds and public pressure.
The past six months had been a "horrible and miserable time", during which she had "endured pain in my body and mind".
Park arrived at the courthouse in handcuffs and looking drawn. But she insisted she was innocent.
"I never accepted or granted requests for favours while in office," she said. "I believe it has been fully revealed during the course of the trial that the corresponding suspicions are not true." She told the court she hoped she would be the last victim of "political revenge in the name of the rule of law".
Park, the daughter of the late dictator Park Chung Hee, is the third former South Korean president to be accused of corruption in Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Two former army-backed leaders who ruled in the 1980s and 1990s - Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo - both served jail terms for charges including bribery after they retired.
Another former leader, Mr Roh Moo Hyun, committed suicide in 2009 after he was questioned over graft allegations.