Prosecutors, doctors check Park’s sickness claim

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Prosecutors, doctors check Park’s sickness claim

Prosecutors and doctors met behind bars with former President Park Geun-hye after her lawyer claimed she is too sick to serve her prison term.

The visit took place at the Seoul Detention Center around 9:50 a.m. Monday and prosecutors and doctors interviewed Park for about one hour. The meeting was prompted by a motion filed by Park’s lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, last Wednesday demanding the suspension of the execution of her sentence.

Yoo said she is suffering from burning feelings, acute pains and numbness on her back due to spinal disc herniation. He also said she is suffering from sleep deprivation due to the pain.

Park, who served as president from 2013 until her impeachment and removal in March 2017, is serving a two year sentence for an election law violation. She is also facing another possible 25-year prison term for abuse of power and corruption during her presidency, which is being appealed to the Supreme Court. She was also fined 20 billion won ($17.5 million).

The prosecution is also appealing a six-year jail term awarded by the Seoul Central District Court for taking bribes from the National Intelligence Service. Her detention period as a criminal defendant in the abuse of power trial ended as of midnight last Tuesday, but she remained in custody for a prison term for the election law violation. Last November, Park was convicted of influencing the nomination process of the Saenuri Party, predecessor of the Liberty Korea Party. The court handed down a two-year prison term.

Members of the prosecution’s sentencing committee interviewed Park Monday about her disc problems. Prosecutors and doctors on the committee met her and reviewed records of her outside treatments.

The prosecution said it will hold a committee meeting this week and make a decision. If the prosecution decides to suspend the execution of her sentence, Park will be sent home and receive medical treatment until the Supreme Court concludes its trial on her abuse of power charges.

Legal analysts, however, said it was unlikely Park would be released. They said her ailments don’t meet the condition under the Criminal Procedure Act. According to the Article 471 of the law, imprisonment can be suspended if the health of the inmate will be seriously impaired as a result of the execution of the penalty or there is apprehension that the inmate will not survive it; if the prisoner is 70 years of age or over; if the prisoner is in the sixth month of pregnancy or more; or if 60 days have not elapsed after the prisoner delivered a child.

Execution of a sentence can also be suspended if the parents of a prisoner are 70 or older, or disabled or seriously ill, and there is no relative to look after them; if the descendants of the prisoner are in their infancy and there is no relative to look after them or if there is any other valid reason.

The six-member committee will decide Park’s fate, and she needs a majority vote to be released from the detention center. Three prosecutors are on the committee and three are outside members including two doctors. “Park is 67 years old,” said a prosecutor-turned-lawyer who served on the committee. “And because there is no precedent of a prisoner being released because of disc problems alone, the possibility is very low.”

Lawyers said the prosecution has very strict standards for illnesses that are serious enough to receive the suspension. “One client discovered that he had cancer and petitioned for a suspension of sentence, but the prosecution rejected it because he had early-stage cancer,” said lawyer Yang Hong-seok.

BY SER MYO-JA, PARK TAE-IN [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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