Special Prosecutor’s investigative team seek police protection

Posted on : 2017-02-25 17:20 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Investigators concerned about safety amid right-ring protests opposed to Pres. Park’s impeachment
A participant in a right wing rally in central Seoul on Feb. 11 holds a placard calling for the declaration of martial law. (by Kim Tae-hyeong
A participant in a right wing rally in central Seoul on Feb. 11 holds a placard calling for the declaration of martial law. (by Kim Tae-hyeong

After the police began providing protection details to the individual justices of the Constitutional Court, the investigative team led by Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo has also asked the police to provide the Special Prosecutor and his assistant special prosecutors with protection.

“Since the demonstrations opposing the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and the demonstrations criticizing the Special Prosecutor’s investigation have been intensifying and since an unexpected situation could arise, we have asked the police to provide protection for Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo, his four assistant special prosecutors and Investigative Team Leader Yun Seok-yeol,” the Special Prosecutor’s team announced on Feb. 24.

The groups who are opposed to Park’s impeachment have been holding demonstrations in opposition to the investigation in front of the Special Prosecutor’s office building in Seoul’s Gangnam district two or three times a week. Recently, they have also been playing violent videos, such as one in which ropes were hung around the necks of effigies displaying photographs of Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo and Lee Gyu-cheol (assistant special prosecutor and spokesperson for the Special Prosecutor). Some conservative groups also carried out a demonstration in front of the house of Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo at 5 pm on Feb. 24.

With the final arguments coming up at the end of this month, the Constitutional Court asked the police for protection details, and between two and four police officers are keeping a round-the-clock watch on each of the court’s justices. The police officers in charge of their protection are armed with pistols and guard the justices on their way to and from the court and during arguments and deliberations.

After the Blue House described the Special Prosecutor’s decision to suspend charges against Park as “manipulation of the media,” the Special Prosecutor fired back on Feb. 24 that there were “no legal problems” with the decision. A source at the Blue House told Yonhap News on Feb. 24 that “The Constitution states that a sitting president cannot be indicted on criminal charges aside from treason and so obviously she can’t be charged either” and argued that it was “absurd” for the Special Prosecutor’s team to be planning to suspend the charges.

“A temporary suspension of charges means suspending an investigation that cannot move forward for reasons including unknown whereabouts until those circumstances have been resolved. Legally speaking, there are no problems at all,” Lee Gyu-cheol said in response. The team is planning to temporarily suspend charges against Park if its period of investigation ends before the Constitutional Court makes its decision.

On the morning of Feb. 24, the Special Prosecutor’s team arrested and questioned Lee Young-seon, a staff member working in the office of Park’s personal secretary. Lee is one of the key figures implicated in allegations that Park Geun-hye was receiving secret medical treatment. Lee is charged with having helped people who were neither Park’s official doctor nor her “consultant doctors” to access the Blue House as “secured guests” so that they could treat Park. Lee is also accused of having helped Park and her aides use burner phones.

“We executed a temporary arrest warrant against Lee in order to secure time for the investigation. We’re planning to decide whether to request a formal arrest warrant against him after completing our investigation,” said Lee Gyu-cheol.

By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter

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