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(LEAD) Court issues injunction to halt top prosecutor's suspension

All News 17:06 December 01, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with a court decision; CHANGES slug of story sent earlier under the 'justice ministry-committee result' slug)

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction requested by Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over his suspension, in the first legal decision in a monthslong feud between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and the top prosecutor.

The decision by the Seoul Administrative Court allows Yoon to get back to work immediately. But his days still might be numbered, as the ministry will convene a seven-member committee Wednesday to decide on disciplinary action against Yoon.

Earlier in the day, the ministry's inspection committee also took Yoon's side by advising against the suspension during a three-hour meeting, citing "procedural flaws."

The committee unanimously concluded that there were serious flaws in the decision-making process, as Yoon had not been properly informed of allegations against him in advance and had not been given enough time to explain his positions on them.

"Seeking disciplinary measures, suspending him from duty and launching investigations against him were not appropriate," the committee said.

In a short statement, the ministry squarely refuted the committee's findings but said it would "fully take note of the recommendation."

The committee's conclusion, while not legally binding, could work in favor of Yoon during the disciplinary meeting.

The undated file photo shows Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (R). (Yonhap)

Early last week, the justice minister barred Yoon from duty as she sought a disciplinary measure against him over six counts of alleged misdeeds, including collecting personal information of justices in charge of cases related to a former justice minister and suspected election interference by presidential officials.

Yoon sought a court injunction Wednesday to stop the unprecedented order from going into effect, and filed a lawsuit the next day.

In the latest twist to the contentious case, Yoon requested in the late afternoon the disciplinary meeting be postponed, citing lack of time to prepare for his case.

Lee Wan-kyu, who represents Yoon, said in a statement that the ministry has not responded to the request for access to documents related to the chief prosecutor's suspension.

"Since we are not able to properly prepare (for the disciplinary meeting), we have requested the date be changed until a later date when the necessary steps are taken," he said, pointing out that the right to defend should be guaranteed.

Yoon also asked to call in three witnesses to explain parts of the allegations against him.

If the ministry turns down the request, they will boycott the meeting on-site, Lee said.

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl rides in a car on his way to work at the Supreme Prosecutors Office on Nov. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)


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