Choi Soon-sil Screams to Reporters of 'Undemocratic' Impeachment Trial

Choi Soon-sil Screams to Reporters of 'Undemocratic' Impeachment Trial

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- A close friend of President Park Geun-hye, who is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal, slammed the special prosecutor's team as "undemocratic" on Wednesday as she appeared at its office to undergo questioning after refusing to do so for nearly a month.

   Earlier in the day, the investigation team went to a detention center near Seoul to execute the arrest warrant issued against Choi Soon-sil to compel her to appear before its office for an interrogation.

   "The special counsel's team is no longer democratic," Choi shouted to reporters as she was steered to an elevator at the probe team's office in southern Seoul. "They have been forcing me to confess that I colluded with President Park.

   "This is so unfair," she claimed while being escorted by corrections officers.

   The team's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul denied Choi's argument that the investigators forced her to confess.

   "Based on the behavior Choi has shown so far, we think that she might have tried to put a blemish on the probe team's investigation," Lee told reporters during a regular press briefing.

"We will not be swayed by such a groundless assertion and continue our investigation based on law and principle." 

   The Seoul Central District Court on Monday issued the warrant for Choi for obstruction of duty over alleged irregularities committed in the course of her daughter's entrance to a local university and other academic affairs.

   Choi, indicted for a string of corruption allegations, has already been in custody since last year, but has declined to answer the investigation team's summons, citing health issues and her own trial. She also citied a "repressive investigation" as a reason she declined to undergo the questioning. She has only once appeared before the probe team in late December.

   The team, led by special prosecutor Park Young-soo, could not force her to appear at its office, as the detention warrant under which she is held was issued for other charges sought from the state prosecutors. The prosecution officially handed over the case to Park's team last month.

   "Choi will cooperate with the execution," her lawyer Lee Kyung-jae told Yonhap News Agency by phone. "Still, we hope the special investigation team carries out the interrogation in a free, not oppressive, atmosphere."

   The writ is valid for 48 hours from execution.

   Meanwhile, the independent counsel team accelerated its investigation into Samsung Group over allegations the country's largest business group bribed Choi in return for the state-run pension fund's backing of a merger between two group affiliates in 2015.

   The merger between Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc. was seen as critical for the group's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, the only son of ailing Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, to ensure a smooth succession planr.

   Kim Shin, who heads the trade division of Samsung C&T, was questioned by investigators on Wednesday.

   The questioning came about a week after a local court declined to issue a warrant to formally arrest junior Lee.'

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