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Ex-President Chun to attend libel trial in Gwangju on Mon. after two no-shows

All News 15:36 August 03, 2021

GWANGJU, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- Former President Chun Doo-hwan plans to attend an appellate court hearing on a defamation case in Gwangju next week after having failed to show up twice, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The lawyer told Yonhap News Agency by phone that the 90-year-old Chun, who served as president from 1980 to 1988, will travel to Gwangju, about 330 kilometers south of Seoul, Monday to attend his hearing at the Gwangju District Court's appellate division.

Chun has been absent from two previous appellate court hearings, held in May and June, 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 Gwangju in 1980.

Chun's side previously argued that an appellate trial can proceed in the absence of a defendant but has changed its attitude after the court warned about possible disadvantages.

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)

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.

Chun appealed but failed to show up to the first and second appellate trials held May 10 and June 14, respectively.

According to the Criminal Procedure Act, if a defendant does not show up for 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.

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 dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.

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


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