S. Korea court appoints lawyers for ex-president

The entire defence team for Park Geun Hye resigned in protest against the extension of her detention until next April.
The entire defence team for Park Geun Hye resigned in protest against the extension of her detention until next April.

SEOUL • A South Korean court yesterday assigned five state attorneys to defend disgraced former president Park Geun Hye, following her defence team's resignation last week in protest against the extension of her detention until April next year.

Park is standing trial on charges of bribery and abuse of power. She was forced to step down in March after Parliament voted to impeached her at the end of last year.

She has been in detention since late March, although under South Korean law, a defendant in a criminal trial at a lower court can be detained for a maximum of six months.

Citing concerns that Park could destroy evidence if she was released, the Seoul Central District Court issued an additional arrest warrant on Oct 13 to extend her detention by six months.

The court's move prompted her entire defence team to quit in protest on Oct 16.

Having lost her legal team, Park gave health reasons for her failure to attend court three days later.

"After witnessing the collapse of the presumption of innocence and the principle of investigation without detention, we concluded that our efforts to defend Park will be meaningless," her former lawyer Yoo Yeong Ha told the court last week.

"The court's decision to issue an additional arrest warrant will remain as one of humiliating moments in South Korea's judiciary history," said Mr Yoo.

A Seoul Central District Court spokesman yesterday said that five state attorneys have been appointed to take over Park's defence.

Citing court sources, Yonhap news agency reported that the new defence team would have to review about 120,000 pages of court documents to prepare for upcoming hearings.

Park's supporters have asked a United Nations body to investigate if she was being prevented from getting proper medical treatment and whether her detention was a violation of her human rights.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'S. Korea court appoints lawyers for ex-president'. Print Edition | Subscribe