Tatsuya Kato sues Seoul government for court fees

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Tatsuya Kato sues Seoul government for court fees

Tatsuya Kato, the former chief of the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun’s Seoul bureau, who was acquitted after being accused of defaming President Park Geun-hye, filed a claim against the Korean government for compensation for the trial process.

The Seoul Central District Court confirmed Sunday that Kato filed the claim last month, demanding criminal indemnity for the money he spent during the investigation and trial, including legal and transportation fees, as well as the cost of flying in witnesses from Japan and their lodgings.

Kato was charged in October 2014 with defaming Park after he had reported on Aug. 3 that she went missing for seven hours during the Sewol ferry disaster of April 16, 2014, and had been spending time with a recently divorced former aide.

He was ultimately found not guilty of defaming the president last December and was acquitted by the Seoul Central District Court, which ruled that, while Kato had negligently reported rumors about Park while knowing they were false, the article was under the domain of the freedom of the press. Korean prosecutors had initially requested an 18-month prison sentence for Kato.

The prosecution did not appeal the Seoul court’s decision, determining that it had been made clear that Kato’s report had been false and taking into account the diplomatic aspect, as the two countries were trying to advance bilateral relations.

The amount Kato has filed for has not been revealed, however the investigation and trial into the defamation case spanned around one year and four months, during which time Kato was barred from leaving Korea.

Article 194-2 of the Korean Criminal Procedure Act stipulates: “If a judgement of acquittal is finally affirmed, the State shall be liable for the expenses incurred to the person who was a defendant in the relevant case for defending his case on trial.”

The court will decide upon the amount depending on the mental anguish incurred, if there had been any willful misconduct or negligence on the part of prosecutors and court and other factors.

The amount rewarded, if any, would come from Korean government tax money.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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