SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — A South Korean court on Friday rejected a request to arrest a key ally of President Moon Jae-in who is being investigated over allegations of corruption and power abuse, saying he was unlikely to flee or destroy evidence.
But in a rare comment on a suspect who has yet to be convicted, the Seoul Eastern District Court stated that the case of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk involved criminal acts of bad nature.
Prosecutors have claimed that Cho, while serving as Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs in 2017, abused his power by blocking a government inspection into corruption allegations surrounding former Financial Services Commission Director-General Yoo Jae-soo, another official close to Moon’s ruling party.
Yoo, who later became vice mayor of the city of Busan, was arrested in November and indicted earlier this month over suspicion that he received around 49.5 million won ($42,600) in bribes from businesspeople during his time at the financial regulator.
Cho, once considered a future presidential contender for the ruling liberals, is being separately investigated over allegations of financial crimes and academic fraud surrounding his family that led to the arrests of his wife and other relatives and sparked huge protests that dented the popularity of Moon’s government.
“The nature of the criminal acts in this case is not good, but considering the suspect’s testimony and attitude during the hearing, the fact that his spouse has been arrested and is on trial on a different case, the fact that it’s difficult to determine that the gravity of the offence would warrant an arrest, and that the suspect has a fixed residence, it cannot be said there’s a reason for an arrest based on concerns of fleeing,” the court said in statement.
Prosecutors didn’t immediately say whether they would make further requests for Cho’s arrest.
Cho served as Moon’s justice minister for a month before resigning in October as the scandal grew, but he has firmly denied any legal wrongdoing.
“I have been enduring an endless investigation by the prosecution targeting my family. It has been a harsh time,” Cho told reporters on Thursday as he arrived at the court for a hearing on the prosecution’s warrant request.
He said he didn’t agree with the content of the prosecution’s warrant request, which accused Cho of abusing his power as a presidential official.
Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press
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HOUSTON — A 41-year-old Congolese woman died Wednesday in U.S. government custody shortly after she entered a border station in South Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.
CBP says the 41-year-old woman, who the agency did not identify, had arrived at an official port of entry in Laredo, Texas, early Tuesday afternoon. The woman came with paperwork that documented a “previous medical condition,” CBP said. The agency’s medical personnel cleared her to be detained overnight.
According to the agency, the woman told CBP officers early Wednesday that “she was suffering from abdominal pain and had vomited.” The agency says it contacted emergency personnel “immediately” and had her taken to a local hospital.
“The subject’s health declined rapidly and she passed away at the hospital,” the CBP statement said.
CBP did not disclose the woman’s preexisting medical condition or whether she had tried to enter the U.S. previously. Agents at official crossings between the U.S. and Mexico have stopped tens of thousands of asylum seekers from entering the country under policies enacted by President Donald Trump’s administration, limiting crossings at many ports to just a few people daily and forcing others to wait in Mexico.
The agency says the Webb County medical examiner “has determined that the death is not suspicious, as the individual had a preexisting medical condition.”
CBP declined to answer follow-up questions about the case. The medical examiner’s office and the embassy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Washington, D.C., did not return messages Thursday.
At least 11 people died this year after entering CBP’s custody, according to statements posted on the agency’s website. Those people include a 16-year-old teenager from Guatemala who died of the flu inside a Border Patrol cell in Weslaco, Texas, in May. Surveillance video later showed Hernandez had been lying unresponsive for several hours despite the agency’s claims that it did regular checks on him.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general last week cleared CBP of any wrongdoing in the deaths of two children last December, 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Both cases raised questions about whether the children received medical care quickly enough. Jakelin was not transported from a remote border outpost to a larger Border Patrol station for seven hours. Felipe was taken to a hospital in New Mexico with a fever, released, than taken with his father to a holding facility at a highway checkpoint. Several hours later, after agents had helped clean up his vomit, he was taken back to a hospital where he soon died.
Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
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