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Prosecutors raid branches of religious group at center of coronavirus outbreak

All News 12:17 May 22, 2020

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors raided facilities of Shincheonji, a minor religious sect, on Friday as part of their ongoing probe into allegations that the group hindered state efforts to contain the new coronavirus in the early stages of the pandemic.

Some 100 investigators took part in the raids into the secretive group's branches nationwide, to seize materials in connection with the charges brought against the group's founder, Lee Man-hee. The branches include the group's headquarters in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul, and facilities in the cities of Busan, Gwangju and Daejeon.

The raid marks the prosecution's first forcible investigation into the group since February when a group of people who claimed to be victims of the religious group filed a complaint against the 89-year-old Lee for embezzlement, dereliction of duty and violation of infectious disease prevention laws.

The group is accused of causing the country's biggest cluster outbreaks, accounting for some 47 percent of the country's total caseload of 11,142.

Its worship services, where members sit close together and chant loud in poorly ventilated spaces, are believed to have been a factor in the rapid spread the virus.

Also, Lee is accused of ordering group members not to fully cooperate with health officials, thus hindering state efforts to contain COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.

The file photo taken on March 10, 2020, shows the headquarters of Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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