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article imageFormer top S. Korean judge arrested in power abuse probe

By AFP     Jan 23, 2019 in World

A former South Korean chief justice was arrested Thursday on allegations of abuse of power for allegedly meddling in trials to curry favour with now-ousted president Park Geun-hye.

Yang Sung-tae was the presiding judge on the Supreme Court for six years until his retirement in 2017.

The South's politicians have long had legal troubles -- all the country's living ex-presidents are either currently in prison or have previously served jail terms.

But Yang is the first former top judge to be arrested, in a case that raises questions about the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary in a country which was still a military dictatorship as recently as the 1980s.

The 71-year-old was seeking to set up a separate court of appeals -- a pet project of his which never materialised -- and is accused of seeking to interfere in cases to win the political backing of then-president Park Geun-hye.

He allegedly sought to delay deliberations in compensation suits raised by former wartime forced labour victims against Japanese firms, at a time when Park was seeking to improve relations with Tokyo.

According to reports the prosecutors' indictment is about 260 pages long and contains around 40 counts, including abuse of power and leaking state secrets.

He is said to have ordered the drawing-up of a list of judges opposed to his initiative, in order to undermine their careers.

The former chief justice has denied the allegations and asked the public to "have faith in judges".

Prosecutors investigating the case sought a warrant for his arrest, which the Seoul Central District Court approved early Thursday after a lengthy hearing.

Yang was immediately taken into custody at Seoul Detention Center, Yonhap news agency reported.

He made no comment to reporters as he arrived at court Wednesday.

The accusations against him emerged after Park was ousted in March 2017 over a sprawling corruption scandal that had prompted huge street protests.

She was convicted of graft and abuse of power, with an appeal court extending her sentence to 25 years in August.

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