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Ex-President Chun again avoids attendance of appellate court hearing on defamation case

Politics 15:55 June 14, 2021

GWANGJU, June 14 (Yonhap) -- Former President Chun Doo-hwan again failed to attend an appellate court hearing held Monday to deal with his defamation case related to a late Catholic priest's testimony about the military's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in the southeastern city in 1980.

Last November, the Gwangju District Court sentenced Chun to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, on charges of defaming the late Catholic Priest Cho Pius, who testified to having witnessed Chun's troops shooting from helicopters at Gwangju's pro-democracy demonstrators. Chun was indicted in May 2018 on defamation charges after denouncing Cho as a "shameless liar" in his controversial memoir published in 2017.

A file image of former President Chun Doo-hwan superimposed over images of a court and a street demonstration during the pro-democracy movement in the southwestern city of Gwangju in 1980. (Yonhap)

Immediately after his conviction by the district court, the 90-year-old Chun, who served as president from 1980 to 1988, appealed.

But he failed to show up at the first appellate trial held on May 10 at the same court in Gwangju, about 330 kilometers south of Seoul, arguing an appellate trial can proceed in the absence of a defendant.

The second hearing was scheduled to take place on May 24 but was postponed to Monday because a summons was not delivered to Chun due to the court's mistake.

According to the Criminal Procedure Act, if a defendant does not show up in trial more than twice without any justifiable reason, the court can issue a summons or make a ruling only after hearing additional opinions from the prosecution.

Without the appearance of Chun, the appellate court may choose to conclude its trial after hearing more from the prosecution alone, believing that the former president may have given up his defense right.

The former Army general seized power in a 1979 coup, and his troops ruthlessly cracked down on the nine-day uprising that started on May 18, 1980, leaving more than 200 people dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.

Chun received a death sentence in 1996 for treason and bribery. But he was released in December 1997 on a presidential pardon.


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