Choi Soon-sil's Lawyer Claims Human Rights Violations & 'Aggressive Language'
SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- The legal representative of President Park Geun-hye's confidante, who is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal, said Thursday that investigators violated her human rights in the course of their interrogation.
Attorney Lee Kyung-jae said in a statement that his client Choi Soon-sil was deprived of her right to be assisted by lawyers when she was questioned by the independent counsel team for the first time in late December.
Lee claimed that a prosecutor carried out the interrogation under the guise of a face-to-face talk, and did not allow her lawyer to accompany her during the process. He said that the prosecutor forced Choi to confess that she colluded with President Park Geun-hye.
He also argued that another senior prosecutor used aggressive language, such as they will "annihilate" Choi's family and make her, her daughter and grandchild live with their "heads bowed in shame."
During a press conference held at his office, Lee urged the probe team to reveal the CCTV footage recorded during the talks.
The announcement came one day after Choi slammed the investigation team as undemocratic as she appeared at its office to undergo questioning. Choi had refused to accept a summons for nearly a month since she was grilled for the first and last time in December.
"The special counsel's team is no longer democratic!" Choi shouted to reporters Wednesday, as she was escorted by correctional officers to an elevator at the office in southern Seoul.
Lee's press conference was shortly interrupted by a quarrel between Lee and a woman who was protesting against Choi. The woman, holding a picket sign, accused Lee of defending Choi, and shouted "What does democracy mean to Choi?"
Lee Kyu-chul, the investigation team's spokesman, denied Choi's arguments during a press briefing held later in the day.
"In the case of Choi Soon-sil, she is the figure at the heart of this scandal and thus we made more effort to carry out the investigation strictly based on law and principle," he said. "We express deep regret over the fact that Choi has damaged the integrity and honor of the prosecutors with false information."
Regarding the abusive language claims raised by Choi's attorney, the spokesman said no CCTV is installed inside the prosecutor's room where the conversation took place, but the door was open and a corrections officer was sitting just outside.
Choi has been exercising her right to remain silent since Wednesday, according to the investigation team.
Meanwhile, former presidential aide Hyun Ki-hwan was quizzed by investigators on Thursday over suspicions the presidential office created a blacklist of artists to deny those critical of the government from getting state support. Hyun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2015 to 2016, has been detained on separate corruption charges.
Also on Thursday, Ewha Womans University, whose professors have been arrested for allegedly giving undue favors to Choi's daughter, said it has banned two of its professors from lecturing or conducting other research activities. The school said it will hand out further punishment to those involved based on the probe team's investigation.'