Court upholds prison term for ex-NIS head

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Court upholds prison term for ex-NIS head

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a four-year prison sentence for Won Sei-hoon, the former National Intelligence Service (NIS) director who was convicted of political interference and meddling in elections.

A close confidante of former President Lee Myung-bak, Won was indicted in 2013 for running an illicit smear campaign to sway voters in favor of Park Geun-hye, a candidate in Lee’s party. Won led the NIS from 2009 to 2013.

NIS officials hired hundreds of civilians and former agents to post comments on the internet that were critical of Park’s rival Moon Jae-in. Park won the election 2012 but was ousted from office in March 2017 over a corruption scandal. Moon eventually succeeded her in a snap election.

Won’s trial dragged on as each court differed on whether he was guilty of violating election laws, a crime punishable by a much heavier penalty than breaching NIS law.

He was first found not guilty of the charge in the lowest court ruling in July 2014 and given a suspended term. But an appellate court overturned the verdict in February 2015 and had him serve about eight months before he was released on bail.

The granting of bail came after the appellate court sent his case back to the lower court, saying the evidence was not sufficient to prove his violation of election laws.

Last August, the Seoul High Court, an appellate court just below the Supreme Court, found Won guilty of violating election laws and sentenced him to four years in prison.

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