August 25, 2009 11:16
The journey through the courts of the disgraced cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk, whose spectacular fall from grace made headlines worldwide in 2006, came to an end in the Seoul Central District Court on Monday. Hwang was indicted in May 2006 for violating bioethics laws, fabricating research and embezzling state grants. It was his first hearing in 39 months and the last before sentencing.
Hwang appealed to the court to give him another chance in stem cell research. He also asked for clemency for each of the other scientists indicted alongside him, mentioning every one by name.
But prosecutors are asking for four years in prison for Hwang, saying the case stemmed purely from his "immoral attitude and avarice" and had brought shame on Korean scientists as well as the country as a whole. "The disappointment felt by the people of Korea is enormous," the prosecution said. "This case must put a stop to such malpractice."
Hwang's ostensible breakthroughs in growing patient-specific stem cells in 2004-5, at the time seen as a milestone in tailoring treatments to individual sufferers of incurable diseases, allowed him to bag W2 billion (US$1=W1,242) in research grants from Nonghyup and SK as well as the government as he found himself elevated to "national scientist" an became a media darling. But his results were exposed as a fake and he was shown to have illegally bought thousands of donor eggs to continue his abortive experiments.
The court will pronounce the sentence on Oct. 19. It is highly likely that either the prosecutors or Hwang will appeal given the time the case has already consumed. The court was packed on Monday with some 300 die-hard Hwang fans.
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