Lawyers deny all charges against South Korea's ousted President

Indo Asian News Service

Seoul, May 2 (IANS) The legal team of ousted President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday denied all charges against her during a preliminary hearing of a trial over her alleged role in the "South Korean Rasputin" corruption scandal.

Park, 65, was not present at the hearing.

Attorney Yoo Yeong-ha, who is heading Park's legal team, once again maintained the former leader's innocence and made a request to analyse the over 120,000-page summary of the investigation carried out by South Korean prosecutors into the case, Efe news reported.

The lawyer argued that a series of inconsistencies could exist in the report by the prosecutors, who assumed that Park continued fulfilling her presidential duties until March, whereas the country's Parliament approved her impeachment in December.

The first preliminary hearing was aimed at reviewing the charges against Park and setting dates for witness testimony.

The Seoul Central District Court, which will hear the case, is expected to hold two to three preparatory hearings before the first formal hearing around June.

Park, who has been in pre-trial detention since March 31, faces 18 charges, including bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaking state secrets, for which she could be sentenced to between 10 years and life imprisonment.

Prosecutors believe that Park created a network with her friend, Choi Soon-sil, dubbed the "South Korean Rasputin" for her proximity to the former President, and used it to seek and obtain bribes of around $50 million from at least three large business groups.

Park is the first democratically elected South Korean head of state to be impeached, making next month's polls the first to be convened early in the country since the military junta, led by General Chun Doo-hwan, began democratic elections in December 1987.

--IANS

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