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Prosecution’s past cases will be investigated

Sept 30,2017
A justice ministry reform committee has recommended an inquiry into the prosecution’s past cases that were based on false accusations or caused controversy over possible human rights abuses and excessive prosecutorial power, the ministry said Friday.

The 17-member board proposed the ministry and prosecution set up an independent committee in charge of finding out and clarifying who is responsible for the mishandling or excessively exerting influence.

The reform body advised a nine-member panel made up of civilian experts, under whose directions the inquiry teams will carry out their probes into controversial cases.

The reform committee under the Ministry of Justice was formed in August as part of the liberal Moon Jae-in government’s key policy drive to overhaul the judiciary and prosecution, often criticized for wielding arbitrary authority and being swayed by politics.

Many ex-convicts in past cases have been exonerated by courts after they were retried in recent years. Most of them were falsely convicted of political crimes, such as pro-North Korea activities in violation of the National Security Law, and served long sentences.

The bulk of their indictments were filed in the 1960s-1980s, when South Korea was under a dictatorship.

The proposed inquiry mission is also aimed at uncovering suspected abuse of power and violations of human rights among prosecutors over the course of their probes, the ministry said.

Cases that had enough allegations but were either denied or delayed by the prosecution without due reason will also be subject to the inquiry, it added.

Observers said the establishment of the inquiry committee may target some of the disputed cases involving high-profile figures who faced trials under the two previous conservative governments led by ousted President Park Geun-hye and her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.

One of the cases is the acquittal of former public broadcaster KBS chief Jung Yun-joo, who was appointed by the liberal Roh Moo-hyun government and indicted for breach of duty after Lee became the president.

Lee Myung-bak now faces a possible probe himself over a massive political maneuver carried out during his term by the then chief of the state spy agency that was aimed at oppressing his political opponents and the liberal bloc.

The committee may also look into allegations that the Park Geun-hye government and some top prosecutors at that time tried to obstruct a probe into the 2014 ferry sinking that killed more than 300 passengers aboard, to shut down the growing controversy over the president’s unaccounted whereabouts in the first several hours after the accident began, observers said.

The sinking of the Sewol ship off the country’s southwestern coast was one of the catalysts that triggered her impeachment and removal from office in March.

Yonhap