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(LEAD) Court grants bail to Shincheonji leader indicted on charges of obstructing COVID-19 response

All News 15:00 November 12, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 2-3,5, last para)

SUWON, South Korea, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) -- A court on Thursday granted bail to the leader of a minor religious sect at the center of the early coronavirus outbreak in South Korea.

The Suwon District Court, south of Seoul, allowed the bail request of Lee Man-hee, the founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, citing a low risk of destroying evidence and his deteriorating health.

The court set the bail bond at 100 million won (US$89,700) and ordered him to stay at his residence and wear an electric device to trace his movement.

The 89-year-old leader was indicted in August for allegedly submitting false documents to health authorities on the whereabouts and number of participants at Shincheonji's gatherings in February when the sect was blamed for spikes in the spread of COVID-19.

He is also accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won from church funds and holding unauthorized religious events from 2015 to 2019.

Since his arrest, he has requested bail, citing poor health.

Appearing in court earlier this month, he pleaded with the court to allow him to be released on bail, saying, "Death would be better than living (in prison)."

Lee Man-hee, founder and leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, bows before a news conference at his villa in Gapyeong, 60 kilometers northeast of Seoul, on March 2, 2020. The religious sect has been at the center of the new coronavirus outbreak in South Korea. (Yonhap)


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