Anchor: A Seoul court has rejected a pretrial detention warrant sought for main opposition leader Lee Jae-myung over corruption charges, saving the former presidential candidate from the verge of being put behind bars. Lee expressed his gratitude to the judiciary after walking out of the Seoul Detention Center early morning Wednesday, but the prosecution has no plans to relent in its efforts to punish him.
Kim Bum-soo has more.
Report: The Seoul Central District Court has denied the prosecution's request for a pretrial detention warrant for main opposition Democratic Party(DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung on corruption charges.
In rejecting the warrant early morning Wednesday, the court said that it is difficult to recognize the need to put Lee behind bars in consideration of his right to defense and the risk of destruction of evidence.
While citing the lack of direct evidence, the court said the risk that the opposition chief will destroy evidence has not reached the level needed to supersede the principle of investigation and trial without detention.
Lee appeared for the warrant hearing on Tuesday morning to determine his pretrial detention, which lasted for more than nine hours.
Leaving the Seoul Detention Center after the decision was handed down, the DP chief thanked the court, calling it the "last bastion of human rights."
[Sound bite: Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung (Korean-English)]
"You would think that politics is the work of politicians, but it is done by the people. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the judiciary for clearly proving that it is the last bastion of human rights."
Speaking to reporters following the warrant decision, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon told reporters that the warrant decision does not mean Lee is not guilty.
[Sound bite: Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon (Korean-English)]
"The warrant decision is only one procedure in a criminal investigation, and the decision does not mean that Lee is not guilty. The prosecution has so far conducted a fair investigation and I believe they will continue to do so."
Prosecutor-General Lee One-seok told reporters that Lee's trial has not even begun and his investigators will make sure proper punishments will be handed down.
During his time as mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Lee allegedly granted various privileges to private developers and caused losses to the city government by changing zoning regulations for the former site of the Korean Food Research Institute in Baekhyeon-dong between 2014 and 2015.
The prosecution is also looking into suspicions that he was involved in the remittance of some eight million U.S. dollars to North Korea by the chair of Ssanbangwool Group between January 2019 and January 2020 when Lee was Gyeonggi Province governor that was purportedly transferred to facilitate his prospective trip to the regime.
The court decision came days after the former presidential candidate pulled out of his 24-day hunger strike, during which the National Assembly approved a motion allowing his arrest in a closed vote that saw as many as 39 defections from the DP.
Lee has been receiving medical treatment since he was hospitalized on Monday of last week due to health concerns resulting from the prolonged hunger strike.
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.