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(2nd LD) Suspect in Air Force sexual abuse case found dead: rights group

All News 16:58 July 26, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS defense minister's remarks, more info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- A suspect in the suicide death of an Air Force sexual abuse victim has been found dead at a military detention facility, a human rights group said Monday.

The senior master sergeant was indicted on charges of inflicting secondary harm and threatening retaliation against the master sergeant, surnamed Lee, who took her own life in May, three months after she was allegedly groped and suffered other abuse by a colleague of the same rank.

"The senior master sergeant was found unconscious at 2:55 p.m. Sunday and transferred to a civilian hospital but later died," the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, a nongovernmental organization, said.

The suspect had been held at a detention facility run by the military police.

The rights group blamed the Ministry of National Defense for poor supervision, saying the senior master sergeant required careful monitoring as a suspect in a high-profile case and that the incident occurred "in broad daylight."

The group also claimed the suspect's death will hamper efforts to get to the bottom of the case as it occurred before the related trial is set to begin on Aug. 6.

Lee's bereaved family said in a statement the senior master sergeant's death should not disrupt efforts to reveal the truth behind the March incident.

"We expected the senior master sergeant's wrongdoings to be revealed through impartial law enforcement, but that opportunity has vanished due to the defense ministry's negligence," they said in the statement.

Defense Minister Suh Wook said authorities are investigating the exact cause of his death, adding that they will also look into whether there has been any coercion involved in the process of the investigation into the sexual abuse case.

This file photo, taken June 9, 2021, shows the entrance to the Gyeryongdae military headquarters, 160 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)



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