A fierce legal fightA hearing to determine whether an arrest warrant should be issued for former president Park Geun-hye will be held at the Seoul Central District Court today. That’s three days after a special investigation team of prosecutors requested that Park be detained.
The courtroom will likely see an unprecedentedly heated legal battle between prosecutors and Park’s defense lawyers. Such an appearance by a former president has never occurred in our history. Park still denies all of the 13 charges against her, including bribery and abuse of power.
As her lawyers are determined to categorically refute the need to detain her during investigation, indictment and trial, a tug of war between prosecutors and the defense lawyers is expected to continue for more than 12 hours. An earlier hearing to decide if the court should issue an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong on charges of giving bribes to the former president took seven hours and 30 minutes. An arrest warrant was ultimately issued. Some pundits compared the expected lengthy battle to a judicial filibuster, but Park’s lawyers are required to argue as hard as they can — and accept the court’s decision no matter how long the deliberation lasts.
The focus of the legal dispute is on whether a bribery charge can be applied to Park’s case. An independent counsel concluded the 43.3 billion won ($38.9 million) Samsung gave to the suspicious Mi-R and K-Sports foundations and Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil was a quid pro quo for the government helping Lee consolidate his control over his empire.
The prosecution’s acceptance of the special prosecutor’s conclusion reflects their confidence in proving the bribery charge.
During the face-to-face questioning, however, Park insisted on her innocence, saying, “Not a penny was deposited into my bank account from outside.” The former president’s last-minute decision to appear at the hearing shows how desperate she is to prove her innocence before a judge.
The court must also prepare for potential skirmishes between Park’s supporters and detractors outside the court. We urge the court to find ways to keep order inside and outside of the court to prevent any mishaps.
As we have repeatedly said, it does not constitute a crime even if the court issues an arrest warrant as it only recognizes a need for further investigation. Justice will prevail in our criminal court no matter what.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 30