September 27, 2017 10:53
Prosecutors on Tuesday asked the Seoul Central District Court for an additional arrest warrant so they can extend the detention of ex-President Park Geun-hye while her trial drags on.
The six-month limit on her original detention expires on Oct. 16, but there is little hope that the trial will wrap up by then as the long Chuseok break looms. If the extension is not granted, she can go home and attend her trial from there, but that increases the risk of more delay tactics and no-shows.
The fresh arrest warrant has to be sought on charges other than those cited in the original warrant in March, but more charges were added when she was indicted in April. They include suspicions that she solicited bribes from the Lotte and SK conglomerates, which prosecutors have now cited for the extension.
Park's lawyers protested. Her attorney Yoo Yeong-ha said, "Arrest warrants are issued depending on investigative needs, but the trial about the Lotte and SK bribery charges is almost over. The basic principle of criminal lawsuits is trial without detention."
The court plans to reach a decision by Oct. 10, when the long Chuseok holiday ends.
The detention periods of other suspects in the massive influence-peddling and corruption scandal that brought Park down have already been extended. They include Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, who has been on remand since late last year, and former Park aides Ahn Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong.
But legal precedents are difficult to find. One lawyer who used to be a judge said, "Detention takes place only when necessary, but the facts about the former president have largely been revealed in the trials of other suspects involved in the case. It would be proper to release her to ensure her rights."
But prosecutors argued that Park could try to drag out the trial indefinitely if she is released by refusing to show up on various pretexts. Delay tactics have been her legal team's only coherent defense strategy so far.
The trial has gone through an epic 75 session since May 23, and 73 witnesses have testified. Prosecutors have listed another 60 witnesses, and Park's lawyers plan to summon around 50. That means the trial is unlikely to wrap up before the end of the year.
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