“Prosecutors seek 20-year sentence for left-wing lawmaker”: Lee Seok-ki and colleagues facing tough sentences on charges of plotting an insurrection and praising N. Korea
The prosecutors requested to sentence Unified Progressive Party (UPP) lawmaker Lee Seok-gi, who is charged with plotting an insurrection, to 20 years in prison and to ban him from political activity for 10 years. They requested that Lee Sang-ho, Hong Sun-seok, Cho Yang-won, Kim Hong-yeol, and Kim Geun-rae be given 15 years in prison and barred from politics for 10 years, and asked that Han Dong-geun be imprisoned for 10 years and barred from political activity for 10 years. This comes 160 days after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) raided the homes and offices of ten individuals, including Lee Seok-ki, on Aug. 28, 2013.
The final hearing of the first trial took place on Feb. 3, presided over by Judge Kim Jeong-un in the 12th criminal division of the Suwon District Court. At the hearing, prosecutors from the public security division of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office explained why they wanted such severe punishment. “In this case, members of an underground revolutionary organization concluded that war was imminent after North Korea declared it was annulling the armistice agreement [that ended combat in the Korean War] in Mar. 2013,” the prosecutors said. “These members were apprehended as they were trying to overthrow our democratic system by destroying national infrastructure. If they had put their conspiracy into action, the damage would have been incalculable.”
According to criminal law, conspiracy to overthrow the government is punishable by a minimum of three years in prison. Considering that the upper limit for incarceration for all crimes except murder is 30 years, the sentence demanded by the prosecutors is severe.
During the final hearing, the prosecutors asked for harsh sentences, while the defense made the case for the innocence of their clients with an all-out attack on the legitimacy of the allegations about plotting an insurrection. The two sides had crossed swords during four preparatory hearings and 44 hearings since Nov. 12, 2013, and at the final hearing, with the sentence only a few weeks away, there was yet another fierce debate.
“Conspiracy to overthrow the government is a grave crime, as it jeopardizes the very existence of the state,” said the prosecutors. “It represents a serious threat to the livelihood and safety of the people.”
Referring to the fact that Lee had been arrested and then released in connection with the Democratic Revolutionary Party case, the prosecutors said, “Lee should be punished severely to prevent him from coming up with such a wild dream ever again.” The other defendants, the prosecutors urged, need to be kept apart from society for a long period of time.
Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki (far right) and other defendants wait for the start of the final hearing of their first trial at Suwon District Court, Feb. 3. Normally photos are prohibited at trials, but in this case the judge permitted photos due to the historical significance of the trial. (pool photo)
The primary debate in the final hearing concerned whether the charge of conspiracy to overthrow the government could be applied to Lee and the other defendants. Regarding the length of the sentence they requested, the prosecutors said, “When you combine the 30-year maximum sentence for insurrection conspiracy and the 30 year maximum sentence for the National Security Law, you can add half of one sentence to the other,” arguing that it would be possible for Lee and Kim Hong-ryeol, chairman of the Gyeonggi Province branch of the UPP, to be sentenced to 45 years, with a maximum of 37 years for the other five defendants.
“On the orders of Lee, the person in charge of the underground revolutionary organization known as the RO, the organization members gathered in one place and concluded that the decisive moment had come,” the prosecutors argued. “They came to an agreement on the outlines of the insurrection. When the order came for a full attack in wartime, they were going to begin an armed insurrection, destroying critical national infrastructure. This proves their intent to subvert the Constitution according to Article 91 of the Criminal Act.”
“Based on the positive response of the organization members, it is obvious that they were sufficiently in agreement to resolve to start an insurrection and that the organization had enough of an ideological commitment to discuss actual military activities. The defense claims that this was a lecture and debate, but the members were sufficiently in agreement to pass a resolution about subverting our Constitution and to pass a resolution for specific military preparations and activities according to Lee’s intentions,” the prosecutors said.
In their rebuttal, the defense attorneys said, “Lee never planned or prepared for a rebellion. The RO, which the prosecutors are claiming as the key player in the conspiracy to overthrow the government, is itself a fiction.”
“Considering that there is no objective evidence about the nature of the RO, the prosecutors have had to rely solely on the testimony of the NIS informer surnamed Lee and conjecture,” said Kim Chil-jun, head of the legal team for the defense. “The allegations about the name of the organization known as RO, its creed, its system of organization, and the way it was run have changed again and again during the NIS investigation and the trial.”
The defense also addressed the meetings on May 10 and May 12 of 2013, during which the prosecutors claim the conspiracy took place. “These were normal provincial party events that were held according to the political lecture plan that the Gyeonggi Province branch of the UPP made in April 2013,” the defense said.
“Lee emphasized making material and technical preparations as part of an anti-war pacifist movement to establish a permanent peace,” Kim said. “The National Intelligence Service doctored the transcript, distorting the original intent, to frame Lee on charges of insurrection.”
Outside the courthouse where the final hearing took place, the UPP, civic groups, and conservative organizations held opposing press conferences and demonstrations. The Countermeasures Committee for Denouncing Public Security Oppression and the National Intelligence Service’s Insurrection Conspiracy Political Scheme criticized the prosecutors, saying that their “politically motivated request for sentences will be remembered as a shameful episode in Korean history.” Meanwhile, about 100 members of a conservative organization held a rally calling for Lee to be punished and the UPP to be disbanded.
The prosecutors charged all seven of the defendants, including Lee, with plotting insurrection and violating the National Security Law (praising and encouraging), while adding the charge of inciting resurrection to Lee and Kim Hong-ryeol, chair of the Gyeonggi Province branch of the UPP. The sentencing is scheduled to take place in two weeks.
By Hong Yong-deok, south Gyeonggi correspondent
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