South Korean prosecutors appeal Heather Cho 'nut rage' verdict

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean prosecutors on Thursday appealed a court decision that acquitted the eldest daughter of Korean Air's chairman of disrupting a flight in a rage over macadamia nuts.

Cho Hyun-Ah, also known as Heather, who had been in jail since her arrest in December, walked free last week after an appeals court overturned her conviction for violating aviation safety laws.

The prosecutor's office in Seoul announced that it had submitted an appeal with the Supreme Court to reverse the verdict.

Cho, 40, was a Korean Air vice-president at the time of her Dec 5 meltdown on board a Seoul-bound flight that had just left the gate in New York.

As the plane was taxiing to the runway, Cho, sitting in first class, became enraged when a flight attendant served her some nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate.

She lambasted the chief steward over the behaviour of his cabin crew and then ordered the plane back to the gate so he could be ejected.

In February, a district court sentenced Cho to one year in prison after determining that an aircraft was "in flight" from the moment it began to move, and therefore she had violated aviation safety laws by illegally changing the plane's route.

The Seoul high court upheld her conviction for hampering the plane's operations and violence against the cabin crew.

But it ruled Cho was not guilty of the most serious charge of altering an aircraft's route while in flight, handing down a reduced sentence of 10 months, suspended for two years.

Many South Koreans saw Cho's behaviour as emblematic of a generation of spoilt and arrogant offspring of owners of the giant family-run conglomerates, or "chaebols", that dominate the national economy.

The case invited international ridicule and Cho was criticised at home for embarrassing the country and damaging its image.

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