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(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae conveys petition on prosecution's Cho Kuk probe to rights panel

All News 17:08 January 13, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES with Cheong Wa Dae's new statement)

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- Cheong Wa Dae said Monday it has submitted a formal document to a state human rights panel that includes a public petition calling for a probe into whether prosecutors violated relevant rules in their sweeping investigation into suspicions involving former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family.

Cheong Wa Dae earlier received the online petition amid debates over the prosecution's way of investigating the allegations of crimes related to his children's schooling and a family investment in a private equity fund.

The petition, posted on Oct. 15, 2019, has been sponsored by more than 226,000 people in a month, requiring the presidential office to issue a public response.

It urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an independent body, to see if the prosecution has infringed the human rights of Cho and his family in the process of the probe that triggered massive street rallies in Seoul for and against Cho, a close aide to President Moon Jae-in.

"Cheong Wa Dae sent an official document, with the content of the people's petition included, in the name of chief of staff (Noh Young-min)," Kang Jeong-soo, presidential secretary for digital communication, said in a statement.

He added the commission has notified Cheong Wa Dae that it could begin a formal probe, if necessary, after checking whether it's a matter related to protecting human rights.

Cheong Wa Dae's deputy spokesperson Han Jung-woo later stressed that the presidential office has conveyed the public petition to the NHRC.

"It's not Cheong Wa Dae that has filed its own petition" with the commission, he said.

This combined image provided by Yonhap News TV shows former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. (Yonhap)

Cho, a law professor, drew up the master plan for the government's far-reaching prosecution reform measures while serving as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

Moon nominated Cho on Aug. 9 last year to lead the Ministry of Justice and spearhead the prosecution reform drive.

A day after the ruling and opposition parties agreed on the schedule for his confirmation hearing, the prosecution launched simultaneous raids on about two dozen offices and other facilities as part of their probe into the Cho scandal.

It indicted Cho's wife, Chung Kyung-sim, on the day when he was attending the hearing. Chung, a college professor, was later arrested.

A team of investigators also carried out an 11-hour raid on Cho's home in Seoul weeks before indicting him on charges of crimes largely associated with personal affairs rather than high-profile corruption.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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