Seoul Court Exonerates Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae in Power Abuse Scandal

SEOUL - In a significant ruling, the Seoul Central District Court on Friday acquitted former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae of all 47 charges in a high-profile power abuse scandal. The charges were related to Yang's alleged influence over politically sensitive trials during the tenure of ousted President Park Geun-hye. Alongside Yang, former Supreme Court justices Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han, who were co-indicted in the same case, were also cleared of all charges.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Yang, who led the top court from 2011 to 2017, was accused of using trials as leverage in negotiations with the park administration to support his initiative to establish a court of appeals. He was also suspected of instructing officials at the National Court Administration to manipulate politically charged trials, including a compensation suit by victims of Japan's wartime forced labor.

Prosecutors had previously sought prison terms of seven years for Yang, five years for Park, and four years for Ko. However, the court found that the evidence presented was insufficient to establish Yang's collusion with his subordinates, some of whom were charged with abuse of power. These charges, according to the court, could not be conclusively proven.

Yang, the first chief justice to be arrested as a criminal suspect, was indicted under arrest in February 2019. He spent 179 days in detention before being released on bail in July of the same year. The sentencing hearing, reflecting the complexity and gravity of the case, extended for an unusual duration of 4 1/2 hours, even necessitating a 10-minute break.

Following the acquittal, Yang expressed his respect for the court's decision, highlighting its clarity in a case he deemed obvious. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, in response to the verdict, announced plans to review the ruling in detail before deciding on any potential appeal.

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