Justice minister’s suspicious moveJustice Minister Park Beom-kye invoked his executive power to command senior prosecutors at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to indict those suspected of making false testimonies against Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister under liberal President Roh Moo-hyun. The move came as the statute of limitations on the case is set to expire on Monday. The perjury case involves allegations that prosecutors had forced inmates to make false testimonies against Han. It assumes the prosecutors had falsified testimonies to frame Han in a bribery case where she had served jail term after being found guilty.
Unlike the first trial, Han Man-ho — a businessman convicted of handing 900 million won ($793,301) to Prime Minister Han — denied giving the money in her appeals trial. Two inmates testified that they heard from the businessman that he gave money to the prime minister. But another inmate came forward last year, claiming that a prosecutor had forced prison mates of the businessman to make a false testimony. Pro-government lawyers and politicians of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) have since demanded re-investigation on the former prime minister’s case.
The perjury claim led to allegations of an organized scheme by the prosecution to convict the former prime minister. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 which found Han guilty had sufficient evidence of her bribery other than the testimonies from the inmates. Han’s brother was found to have spent a 100-million-won check signed by the businessman. His ledger also kept a record of the money matching the prosecution’s claims before the investigation began. Moreover, when Han’s company went bankrupt, the prime minister’s side gave 200 million won back, which prosecutors claimed to be part of the bribe. Eight justices on the bench at the top court believed Han took 900 million won and the other five believed she took 300 million won. The bench unanimously concluded that she received at least 300 million won from the businessman.
Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae also had used executive power to command the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to investigate the perjury allegation last year. It found prosecutors innocent due to lack of evidence pointing to their attempt to force false statements. Yet current Justice Minister Park has used his own power to reopen the case. He ordered senior prosecutors at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to review the opinions of prosecutor Lim Eun-jeong who has incessantly criticized prosecutors for forcing witnesses to make perjury. It’s like watching a never-ending ritual to make rain.
The case cannot just clear the name of Han from her bribery case but must also portray prosecutors as devils.