May 04, 2017 11:07
Ex-President Park Geun-hye will be reunited in the dock with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil as they stand trial for receiving or demanding W59.2 billion in bribes from top conglomerates and other crimes (US$1=W1,131).
Park did not show up for her first pre-trial hearing in the Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday as her lawyers entered a plea of not guilty on all 18 charges.
Park's attorney Yoo Yeong-ha played the familiar harp that the deck has been stacked against her legal team.
"It is difficult to express specific opinions since we did not have time to review more than 120,000 pages of evidence," Yoo said, "but our basic stance is that we deny all charges."
The charges mostly center on an extortion racket Park and Choi allegedly ran out of Cheong Wa Dae by using two dubious nonprofits Choi set up and staffed with her drinking buddies.
The trial proper starts on May 23 and will bring the two women together for the first time since their schemes started to unravel last autumn and Choi fled abroad. The court rejected a request by Choi to be tried separately.
Choi's lawyer Lee Kyung-jae, in a typically florid submission, said his client feels "unbearable shame" at having to stand trial next to Park, whom she respected for many years. Lee added the prospect is tantamount to the pain of "gouging out her own eyes."
But the court said the two women not only face the same charges but almost the same group of witnesses. Choi also pleaded not guilty to taking bribes.
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