Key Witnesses Evading President Park's Impeachment Trial?

Key Witnesses Evading President Park's Impeachment Trial?

SEOUL, Jan .4 (Yonhap) -- Two key witnesses in President Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial have yet to respond to an order to appear before the Constitutional Court, adding uncertainty to the high-profile case, sources said Wednesday.

   Lee Jae-man and Ahn Bong-geun, two of Park's closest aides, have been scheduled to testify in court Thursday during the second open hearing to review the legitimacy of the president's Dec. 9 impeachment.

   However, the court's attempts to deliver the attendance orders have failed on both Monday and Tuesday as neither could be found at their registered addresses, according to sources in and out of court.

   In the case of Lee, former presidential secretary for administrative affairs, the registered address turned out to be a commercial property, not residential, they said.

   Along with Jeong Ho-seong, former secretary for private presidential affairs, the two witnesses are known as Park's "doorknob" aides for their high level of access to the president. Ahn previously served as presidential secretary for public relations.

   Should they appear as witnesses, they are certain to face intense media and public scrutiny for possible knowledge of the alleged corruption scandal that led to Park's impeachment.

   Jeong, among other things, has been accused of leaking confidential documents to Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, who in turn abused her ties to the president to gain various personal and business favors.

   Should they fail to appear, they could set a bad precedence for other key witnesses who are scheduled to testify in court next week.

   The court plans to continue attempting to deliver the orders until it succeeds or it will consider issuing a warrant to bring them in. Without receiving the order, witnesses are not obliged to testify. They can also avoid giving testimony by submitting a statement justifying their absence after receiving the order.

   If they fail to show up without legitimate reason, they could face up to a year in prison or up to 1 million won (US$828) in fines.

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