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Mongolian judge ‘can’t remember’ alleged sexual assault

Nov 08,2019
The 52-year-old top justice of Mongolia’s Constitutional Court, who faces allegations of groping a Korean Air flight attendant on a plane last week, reversed his testimony to Korean police, saying he “can’t remember” the incident because he was drunk.

Officers at the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency said Thursday that while Odbayar Dorj, chairman of the Mongolian Constitutional Court, didn’t admit to touching the buttocks of a Korean Air flight attendant during his second round of questioning on Wednesday, he did not deny the allegations as he did when he was first questioned last Saturday.

In his first questioning, police said Dorj adamantly denied the sexual assault charges and insisted he was being mistaken for another Mongolian passenger who was sitting behind him on the plane.

In his second questioning on Wednesday, however, Yonhap reported that Dorj neither admitted nor denied the groping allegations, ambiguously saying he “might have” sexually assaulted the flight attendant in her 20s “under the influence of alcohol, if that’s what she claims.” Dorj reportedly told police that he drank alcohol at the Mongolian airport where his flight to Incheon International Airport departed from.

Officers at the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency said they’ve slapped a 10-day ban on Dorj so he cannot leave the country and will probably ask prosecutors within this week to indict him on sexual assault charges.

Dorj was on his way to attend a board meeting of the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions in Bali, Indonesia, when he boarded a flight from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to Incheon International Airport on Oct. 31. Incheon was his layover.

Korean police suspect Dorj’s colleague, a 42-year-old Mongolian, also sexually harassed another young flight attendant by wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

Korean Air workers on the flight, who hold the authority to arrest misbehaving passengers on a plane, apprehended the two Mongolians and handed them over to the airport police at around 9:40 p.m. that day, shortly after their arrival at Incheon International Airport.

But Dorj and his co-worker claimed they held diplomatic immunity, citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which enables diplomats to receive immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits from the countries they are posted to.

Airport police then wrongly released the pair, who are not, in fact, protected by the treaty.

It was only after the police contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to verify whether Dorj receives diplomatic immunity that they realized he doesn’t.

Police returned to Incheon International Airport on Saturday afternoon and discovered Dorj waiting for his flight to Bali. Officers took him to an investigation room at the airport and asked him about the alleged sexual assault, to which he responded that a different Mongolian person groped the flight attendant, not him. Dorj said he would return to Korea after the conference in Bali and arrived back at Incheon airport on Wednesday morning where he was arrested and taken to the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency.

The second suspect, Dorj’s colleague, was not at the airport last Saturday when police arrived. It appears he departed for Singapore, though for what reason remains unclear. Incheon police said they asked Interpol to add him to its red notice list, which is a request to law enforcement organizations worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.

The two alleged victims told police they were “offended” by the Mongolians and wanted them punished. Under Korea’s Article 298 of the Criminal Act, which Korean police are investigating the Mongolians of, a person who, through violence or intimidation, commits an indecent act on another shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of up to 10 years or by a fine not exceeding 15 million won ($13,000).

BY CHOI EUN-KYUNG, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]