Seoul Court Clears Ex-Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae in Judicial Power Abuse Case

SEOUL - In a landmark ruling, the Seoul Central District Court on Friday acquitted former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae of all 47 charges in a case alleging abuse of judicial power. The charges included accusations of influencing politically sensitive trials during the administration of ousted former President Park Geun-hye. Additionally, two other former Supreme Court justices, Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han, indicted in the same case, were also acquitted.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Yang, who served as the head of the top court from 2011 to 2017, was accused of using trials as leverage in negotiations with the Park administration to further his ambition of establishing a court of appeals. He was also suspected of instructing subordinates at the National Court Administration, the governing body of the top court, to manipulate trials of political significance. This included a compensation suit filed by victims of Japan's wartime forced labor.

The prosecution had sought substantial prison sentences for the accused: seven years for Yang, five years for Park, and four years for Ko. However, the court concluded that while some of Yang's subordinates might have been guilty of abuse of power, the evidence presented by the prosecution was not sufficient to prove Yang's involvement in these activities.

Yang's case has been notable as he is the first chief justice to be arrested on criminal charges. He was initially taken into custody in February 2019 concerning his suspected role in the scandal and spent 179 days in detention before being released on bail in July 2019.

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