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Ex-president Chun given suspended jail term in libel case

All News 15:24 November 30, 2020

GWANGJU, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- A court here on Monday gave out a suspended jail term to former President Chun Doo-hwan for defaming a late democratic activist in a historically important libel case.

The Gwangju District Court sentenced him to eight months in prison, suspending it for two years, after finding Chun guilty of defaming priest Cho Pius, who had testified to witnessing the military shootings at citizens from helicopters during the 1980 Gwangju Uprising against the authoritarian government led by Chun.

"Given the appraisal by the National Forensic Service, there is reasonable ground to believe that there were shootings from helicopters on May 21, 1980," the court said, rejecting Chun's consistent claims to the contrary.

The court also said the biggest responsibility for the brutal crackdown fell on Chun, adding that he should sincerely apologize for the suffering and pain he caused.

Former President Chun Doo-hwan arrives at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, southwest of Seoul, to attend a libel case on Nov. 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

The 89-year-old was indicted in May 2018 for allegedly making slanderous statements toward Cho for making eyewitness accounts of the brutal crackdown in his controversial memoir published in 2017.

In the book, Chun refuted earlier claims made by the priest, who had testified to witnessing the aerial shootings against Gwangju citizens. Chun has insisted that Cho lied, calling him a "shameless liar"

As the crime of defaming the dead can be only acknowledged when it is proved that his or her honor is harmed with falsehood, Chun's conviction practically means that the court concluded that Chun had knowingly denied there were shootings from helicopters.

During his sentencing hearing, Chun, who is said to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was seen nodding off from time to time. Before he made a four-hour drive down to Gwangju, about 330 kilometers south of Seoul, to attend the trial in the morning, he was seen angrily shouting back at the activists gathered in front of his house in Seoul to demand he be held accountable for the brutal crackdown two decades ago.

Chun's troops ruthlessly cracked down on the nine-day uprising which started on May 18, 1980, leaving more than 200 people dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.

The undated file photo shows the late priest Cho Pius. (Yonhap)


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