March 07, 2019 10:28
Former President Lee Myung-bak has been freed on bail for the rest of his appeals trial against a 15-year jail sentence for corruption and embezzlement.
Lee was bailed on Wednesday, 349 days after he was arrested and incarcerated in a remand jail. "Considering the number of witnesses, it will be impossible to complete the hearings by the detention deadline of April 8," the Seoul High Court said.
Lee was granted the respite because the previous presiding judge was promoted to a higher court, and it takes time for a new bench to acquaint itself with the mountain of evidence.
In the meantime the six-month maximum remand detention period would expire anyway, and he would then have to be freed without condition.
His lawyers have also pleaded ill health on behalf of the 78-year-old, who they claim relies on a respirator to sleep. Lee asked to be allowed to move to a room at Seoul National University Hospital but the court rejected the request.
Instead the court bailed on stringent conditions that technically place him under house arrest and banned him from meeting or communicating with people other than his immediate family and attorneys. Bail was set at W1 billion (US$1=W1,129).
Lee smiled in front of the camera before he was driven home. Around a dozen aides greeted him in front of the prison.
The appeal has been progressing at a snail's pace with only three out of 15 witnesses taking the stand. The prosecution said there was no need to grant bail because the detention period expires soon anyway, but the court decided on house arrest for fear that Lee could try to destroy evidence if he is freed unconditionally.
Under the terms of his bail, he must submit weekly reports of his activities to the court, and if he violates the terms bail can be revoked any time.
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