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(LEAD) Military prosecutors grill airmen over death of sexual assault victim

Defense 18:24 June 08, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS prosecutors' raids on military police offices in paras 7-8)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) -- Military prosecutors on Tuesday called in colleagues of the Air Force noncommissioned officer who committed suicide last month following sexual harassment over allegations they might have tried to cover up the incident, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

The victim, identified only as MSgt. Lee, was groped and suffered other abuse by a colleague in a car after a drinking session in March and was found dead at her home inside the base in the western city of Seosan late last month.

"Starting today, the questioning is now under way," ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said during a regular press briefing.

Subject to Tuesday's questioning were two of the victim's superiors who were relieved of duties last week for allegedly trying to coax the victim to drop the complaint, as well as a technical sergeant who drove the car when the incident took place.

The technical sergeant is the only witness to the incident but has reportedly testified that he was not aware of the situation in the backseat.

One of the superiors is also suspected of sexually abusing the victim before the March incident.

Later in the day, the military prosecutors raided the police corps of the Air Force headquarters and the police squadron of the 20th Fighter Wing to see if they properly conducted initial probe into the case.

The victim was affiliated with the 20th Wing in Seosan at the time of the incident. She applied for and was granted a transfer to another base, but took her own life a few days later.

Asked if Defense Minister Suh Wook could also be subject to the investigation, Boo said the probe is under way on the principle that there be "no sanctuary."

"We will first have to see the relevance, but we are currently carrying out the probe under that principle," he said.

According to the ministry, Suh first received a report on the incident on May 25, three days after the victim was found dead by her husband.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Lee Seong-yong tendered his resignation Friday amid intense public fury and President Moon Jae-in accepted the offer immediately.

This photo shows the building of the military prosecutors' office at the defense ministry compound in Seoul. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
(END)

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