July 17, 2020 11:39
The Supreme Court on Thursday sent Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung's case for violating the election law back to a lower court.
The ruling effectively gives Lee the green light to pursue his bid for the presidency in 2022. The bench by a majority of seven to five determined that Lee is not guilty of disseminating false information during a TV debate.
At the crux of the case was a comment Lee made during local elections in 2018 where he denied having his brother sectioned in a psychiatric facility in 2012. He was cleared at first instance but found guilty on appeal.
But the Supreme Court ruled in his favor saying Lee was merely denying a claim by a rival candidate without elaborating.
"Some of Lee's comments during the debate were simply denials of claims made by his opponent, which cannot be seen as deliberate dissemination of false information unless there is a duty of disclosure," Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo said.
But the dissenting minority said the governor distorted the truth since he "hid facts that were detrimental to him and mentioned only those favorable to him, leading others to believe that he played no role in committing his brother to a psychiatric ward."
The brother has since died.
Critics of the ruling expressed concern that it could encourage candidates to lie in future political debates on TV without worrying about being punished.
With Lee in the running, the ruling party's ticket in the 2022 presidential election is expected to become a race between him and former prime minister Lee Nak-yon.
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