S Korean court to hold final impeachment hearing at end of February

If the constitutional court upholds President Park Geun-hye's impeachment, she will be immediately removed from her post and a new presidential election must be held within 60 days.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Protesters carry an effigy of South Korea's President Park Geun-hye during an anti-government rally demanding her resignation in central Seoul, December 5, 2016.

South Korea's Constitutional Court will hold its final hearing by the end of the month on whether or not to uphold the parliamentary impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

The parliament impeached Park, 65, in December over allegations of corruption, suspending her presidential powers pending the court’s ruling.

She was accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses to "donate" nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations which she allegedly used for personal gain.

The court initially planned to wrap up hearings this week but postponed their decision to February 27 after "the president's attorneys asked for more time," South Korean media reported, citing acting chief justice Lee Jung-mi.

The final verdict could be out by March 13, the reports added.

If the court upholds the impeachment, Park will be removed from her post immediately and a presidential election must then be held within 60 days.

The probe into the scandal has seen several senior government officials arrested and a handful of South Korea's most powerful businessmen questioned over their alleged involvement.

Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was also taken into custody last week over charges of his alleged involvement in the scandal.

Lee Jae-yong (C), vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, arrives to be questioned as a suspect in a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, at the office of the independent counsel in Seoul on February 13, 2017. (Reuters)

Park’s lawyers accuse court of bias

In a dramatic twist, Park's lawyers on Wednesday accused one of the judges reviewing her impeachment of bias and asked him to excuse himself.

The Constitutional Court rejected the request, drawing objections from the lawyers who have argued that parliament's vote to impeach Park in December has no legal justification.

Park's lawyers said one of the court's eight judges, Kang Il-won, had consistently shown bias in his questioning of witnesses and had admitted questionable evidence.

TRTWorld and agencies