South Korea’s court on Wednesday rejected an arrest warrant request filed by prosecutors against opposition leader and former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung over corruption charges.
The Seoul Central District Court has denied the prosecutors’ request to arrest the Democratic Party leader, citing the absence of a clear risk that Mr. Lee might tamper with evidence.
“In comprehensive consideration of the degree to which the defendant’s right to defense is needed and the extent of concerns about the possible destruction of evidence, it is difficult to see the rationale and need for his arrest to the extent that the principle of investigation without detention should be ruled out,” it said.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mr. Lee expressed his gratitude to the court for “manifestly proving that it is the last bastion of human rights,” according to Yonhap News Agency.
“Again, I am deeply grateful to the judiciary for solidly safeguarding the constitutional order of the Republic of Korea and for its wise judgment,” he told reporters.
This came just days after Mr. Lee ended a 24-day hunger strike on Sept. 23, demanding that President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government correct policy failures, including failure to oppose Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
He also accused Mr. Yoon of mishandling the country’s post-pandemic economy and aggravating tensions with North Korea by expanding military drills and security cooperation with the United States and Japan.
The criminal charges against Mr. Lee still stand. Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said the arrest warrant review is part of an ongoing process and that the court’s decision does not mean he is innocent.
Mr. Lee has been accused of breaching his duty while serving as Seongnam City’s mayor between 2014 and 2015, allegedly extending unlawful treatment to a private developer in a real estate project that resulted in approximately 20 billion won ($15 million) in losses.
The opposition leader is also accused of soliciting a company to illegally transfer $8 million to North Korea while he was the governor of Gyeonggi Province between 2019 and 2020 to organize a visit to the North.
Mr. Lee, who lost South Korea’s presidential election to Mr. Yoon last year, has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations “fiction” and a “political conspiracy” made against him.
Ahead of last week’s parliamentary vote, Mr. Lee pleaded with lawmakers to vote against the motion submitted by the government to remove his immunity, saying his arrest would “attach wings to prosecutors’ manipulated investigation.”
Under the law, courts cannot hold hearings on requests for arrest warrants for lawmakers during National Assembly sessions unless the assembly allows them to do so by a vote. The Democratic Party blocked a previous attempt by prosecutors to arrest Mr. Lee in February.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times