Prosecutors seeking to arrest Han Sang-ryeol

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Prosecutors seeking to arrest Han Sang-ryeol

Prosecutors said yesterday they have requested an arrest warrant for Han Sang-ryeol after a preliminary investigation concluded that the 60-year-old pro-unification activist violated the National Security Law.

Since returning from an unauthorized 70-day trip to the North, Han has been put under joint investigation by police and the National Intelligence Service. The court will review the warrant request today.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office claimed, based on the police-NIS joint investigation, that Han “benefited” the enemy by a way of praising and encouraging or siding with, banned under Article 7 of the national security law.

During his stay in the North, he was reported by the North media of making remarks that Seoul sees as constituting the praising of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Han is also suspected of accusing the South of sinking its own warship Cheonan in March to set a trap for the North.

Police and the NIS said they also found Han responsible for other violations in the national security law, which also bans unauthorized trips to the North and unauthorized meetings with North Koreans. Han entered the North through China on June 12, without informing the South, and met North Korean leaders including Kim Yong-nam, a top figure in the North.

To gather evidence, police raided Han’s house in Jeonju on Saturday, where they say they seized two books and 10 photos of him taken during the trips to the North. According to the police, Han has continued exercising his right to remain silent.

The violation of the national security law, if confirmed, can lead to a jail term of up to seven years. But, observers say an effort to punish him would likely trigger opposition from progressive groups who see the law as draconian and seriously limiting the rights to free speech.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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