SEOUL, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Monday acquitted a former maritime police chief of mishandling the rescue operation during the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 that killed more than 300 people.
The Seoul Central District Court found Kim Suk-kyoon, then-chief of the Korea Coast Guard, not guilty of professional negligence in one of the country's worst peacetime disasters.
Nine others, who were in key posts of the organization at that time, were also acquitted of the same charge.
Delivering the ruling, judge Yang Chul-han said the prosecution failed to substantiate the allegations against the 10 defendants.
In the same ruling, two people, including one of the 10 former and current officials acquitted of the professional negligence charge, were given suspended sentences for fabricating documents related to the case.
The ferry sank off the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula on April 16, 2014, along with 250 high school kids and 11 teachers, who were traveling to the southern resort island of Jeju on a school field trip. Around 300 people died in the tragedy.
In February of last year, the prosecution's special investigative unit indicted the defendants on charges of failing to guide the passengers to swiftly evacuate from the ship and lead a timely rescue operation needed to save them.
The prosecution had demanded prison sentences ranging from one to five years for the defendants.
The maritime officials had claimed that they could not be legally held responsible, though they felt sorrow for the loss and regret over the failed rescue operation.
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