Top court orders ex-President Chun to be tried in Gwangju in defamation case

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- The Supreme Court has upheld lower courts' rejection of former President Chun Doo-hwan's request to be tried in Seoul, instead of Gwangju, in a defamation case involving his memoir, court officials said Friday.

The top court made the ruling on Thursday after lower courts had refused to accept Chun's demand that the jurisdiction of his case be changed from Gwangju to Seoul because he cannot travel to the southwestern city, about 330 kilometers away, due to old age, according to the officials.

The 87-year-old Chun, who served as president from 1980 to 1988, was indicted in April on charges that his memoir defamed victims of his 1980 crackdown on a pro-democracy revolt in Gwangju.

The former president was accused of libeling activist priest Cho Chul-hyun, who said he witnessed the military firing at citizens from helicopters during the bloody suppression of the protests against Chun's rule. Chun denied the claim in his memoirs published in 2017. He called Cho "Satan wearing a mask" and claimed what he said was a flat-out lie. Prosecutors began an investigation after a relative of Cho filed a complaint. If convicted, Chun could face up to two years in prison or a maximum 5 million won (US$4,550) in fines.

The first court hearing for Chun was held in Gwangju on Aug. 27, but he didn't show up, citing his Alzheimer's disease.

The former president then filed a petition demanding that the jurisdiction of his case be changed to Seoul. The Gwangju High Court rejected the petition on Oct. 2.

The former Army general seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country until early 1988. He received a death sentence in 1996 for treason and bribery. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the highest court, and he was released in December 1997 on a presidential pardon.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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