February 23, 2017 10:21
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday granted a brief extension of the impeachment trial of President Park Geun-hye, whose lawyers have begged for more time.
The final hearing is now scheduled for next Monday. The court also told the defense that Park must decide by Sunday whether she intends to testify at the final hearing.
"After multiple full-panel discussions we decided that the final hearing will be held at 2 p.m. next Monday," acting chief justice Lee Jung-mi said. That gives Park three more days from the original deadline this Thursday rather than the full week she had asked for.
The decision fuels hope that the court will be able to arrive at a ruling before Lee retires on March 13. Once Lee has left there will be only seven judges left, of whom six must agree if a ruling is to be effective. The bench has already shrunk to eight after chief justice Park Han-chul retired on Jan. 31.
Park had been banking on wearing down the court with delays so that a reduced bench would find it more difficult to reach agreement, but those attempts appear to have been scuppered.
If her impeachment is upheld, a fresh presidential election must be held within 60 days. If not she returns to her normal duties.
Her lawyers behaved frantically even by their standards in Wednesday's hearing, which was halted three times as they attacked the judges, accusing justice Kang Il-won of being a "chief representative of the National Assembly" and Lee of "siding with" parliament.
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