&#91EDITORIALS&#93Ahn case: It’s up to Roh

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Ahn case: It’s up to Roh

The prosecution’s request for a warrant to detain Ahn Hee-jung, a close acquaintance of President Roh Moo-hyun, on the charge of violating the political funds law has been rejected again. He was suspected of having received 390 million won ($327,000) from two sources, including Nara Merchant Bank, whose principals are being investigated for bribery. The prosecution has said it will indict Mr. Ahn nonetheless, but the whole truth in the Nara case now may not come out.
It was unusual that two detention warrant requested by the Central Investigation Division of the prosecution against Mr. Ahn were rejected. People paid attention to the requests because they involved a key member of the president’s inner circle. The rejections are a blow to the integrity and authority of the division that handles sensitive cases.
But the prosecution also deserved what it got. The first mistake was not acting on information it had about Mr. Ahn for six months, since before the December presidential election. It thought it could not push the investigation when Mr. Roh was the ruling party’s candidate; it is not surprising that it does not appear fully committed now that Mr. Roh is president. And the longer an investigation drags on, the less likely the guilty will be punished.
There are also questions regarding legal principles. It sounds unconvincing to assert that Mr. Ahn had the clout in 2000 to attract hundreds of millions of won in bribes. Mr. Ahn is not thought to have used the money himself; he was perhaps the messenger for someone else for whom the money was intended. There is little justification in trying to punish the messenger if the key figures remain at large.
It was also inappropriate for Mr. Roh, on television, to call Mr. Ahn “a business partner” and someone “who is suffering because of me.” Now supporters, including politicians, have formed a legal team to help Mr. Ahn’s cause. Did that affect the prosecution and court decisions? If so, the country is the loser. The puzzle can be solved only by Mr. Roh himself. Without an explanation, the issue will come back to haunt him.
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