Ousted S.Korean president appears in court for 1st hearing

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-23 13:53:47|Editor: xuxin


South Korea's former President Park Geun-hye (front) arrives for her first hearing at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, on May 23, 2017. Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday appeared in a Seoul court for her first hearing over a set of corruption charges. (Xinhua/POOL KOREA OUT)

SEOUL, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday appeared in a Seoul court for her first hearing over a set of corruption charges.

Park, handcuffed and in a dark blue suit, got off a police bus and was escorted by correctional officials into the Seoul Central District Court, TV footage showed.

The first South Korean female leader became the third former president to stand trial.

It was her first public appearance since she was taken into custody on March 31. The constitutional court upheld the bill to impeach Park on March 10.

In the courtroom, the somber-faced Park sat near Choi Soon-sil, her longtime confidante who is in custody and at the center of the influence-peddling scandal.

Park and Choi were already identified by prosecutors as criminal accomplice. Park was indicted on a total of 18 charges including bribery, abuse of power and the leakage of government secrets.

If convicted of bribery, Park would face at least 10 years in prison.

The three-justice panel decided to combine the cases of Park and Choi. Park's lawyers had demanded a separate trial for what they claimed a bias coming from the combined hearings.

The first hearing for Park, which began at 10:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT), lasted for around three hours. The next hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

Given the maximum detention period of six months, the court was expected to proceed rapidly with hearings.

At the first hearing, a judge asked Park about her identification including address, occupation and a date of birth.

Asked about the occupation, Park replied she had no occupation rather than said she was a former president.

An inmate number 503 was attached to Park's dark blue jacket. During the hearings, the accused can wear private clothes instead of prison uniform.

While Park was replying, Choi sobbed. Park and Choi had been a friend for some four decades, but they did not acknowledge each other in the courtroom.

Park was charged with conspiring with Choi to take 59.2 billion won (52 million U.S. dollars) in bribes from large conglomerates including Samsung, Lotte and SK.

The former leader was also accused of letting Choi, who assumed no public post, intervene in state affairs behind the scenes.

Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group, the country's fifth-biggest conglomerate, appeared in the same court for bribery charge.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, a de-facto leader of Samsung Group, the country's No.1 family-controlled conglomerate, has already stood trial as he was indicted in February.

Park's lawyer denied all charges levied by prosecutors. Park said she had the same position as her lawyers.

Choi also denied all charges. Choi said at the hearing that she was a sinner as she forced Park to appear in the courtroom.

Chairman Shin denied the charge that he offered bribes in return for business favors.

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KEY WORDS: Park Geun-hye