People attend a candlelight rally to demand President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 31, 2016. (Xinhua/Lee Sang-ho)
SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's constitutional court, which is deliberating a motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye, on Tuesday warned against the possible delay of trial on the impeachment bill as it speeds up the deliberation process.
Chief Justice Park Han-chul said in the third pleading session that future proceedings must not be postponed for the reason of time shortage in preparations, urging both the defendant and plaintiff sides to bear that in mind.
The head of the nine-judge court asked both sides to speed up the legal proceedings, but it actually targeted President Park's legal team, which offered details on the impeached leader's whereabouts on the day of the ferry-sinking disaster to the court on Tuesday, 19 days after the court's demand.
The suspected absence of President Park in the presidential Blue House when the passenger ferry Sewol capsized and claimed over 300 lives on April 16, 2014, was cited as one of the main reasons for the impeachment that was passed in the parliament on Dec. 9.
The court has up to 180 days to deliberate, but it has been speeding up the deliberation by holding trials twice a week to minimize the power vacuum. A presidential election must be held in 60 days if the court upholds the bill.
Park's legal team has been under fire for the suspected delay of legal proceedings. Park's lawyers have demanded a criminal trial on all counts of five constitutional and eight criminal charges against the president.
Proving all the charges will take much longer time than the constitutional ruling, which allows the president to be fired on disciplinary grounds if Park violated any of the 13 counts.
Key witnesses also refrained from attending the trial. Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil at the center of the presidential scandal as well as two former presidential secretaries refused, or delayed, the court's summoning.
The head of the parliamentary judiciary committee, which serves as prosecutors in the constitutional trial, raised suspicion that Park's legal team may be intentionally postponing the proceedings by discouraging witnesses from attending the hearing.