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(LEAD) Ex-ranking Army officer under probe jumps to death: police

National 17:29 December 07, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES slug, headline to clarify Lee's status as retired officer; UPDATES throughout; INSERTS photo)

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- A retired former Army general under a prosecution investigation on illegal surveillance charges jumped off a building in an apparent suicide, police said Friday.

Lee Jae-su, former chief of the Defense Security Command (DSC), the military intelligence unit, appears to have thrown himself off a building located in the eastern Seoul district of Songpa at 2:48 p.m., police said.

A suicide note was found at the scene. Lee's body has been transferred to a hospital morgue.

Lee, 60, was being probed by the prosecution over his alleged involvement in the illegal surveilling of bereaved families of victims from a 2014 deadly ferry sinking that took more than 300 lives.

Prosecutors accused him of ordering his officers to collect information about any possible misconduct by the families to adversely affect the public's sympathetic sentiment toward them.

Lee avoided pre-indictment detention Tuesday as the court turned down a prosecution's request for his arrest warrant.

Prosecutors believed the DSC undertook such tasks at the behest of the office of then President Park Geun-hye, who had faced a huge political backlash over her government's alleged mishandling of the rescue process during the sinking of the Sewol ferry, ahead of the 2014 local elections.

Police said they are investigating the scene.

Lee Jae-su, former Defense Security Command chief, is seen in this photo filed Dec. 3, 2018 as he appeared for a court hearing on his arrest warrant at the Seoul Central District Court on charges of illegal surveillance of Sewol families. (Yonhap)


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