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BBK Probe to Proceed as Planned but Weakened

Posted January. 11, 2008 07:24,   


The Constitutional Court, which is looking into the constitutionality of a special legislation calling for a special prosecutor to investigate President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s connections with BBK, said that the law was valid but that investigators could not legally take witnesses into custody for questioning without a warrant nor could slap a fine on witnesses if they failed to comply.

On Jan. 10, the nation’s highest court dismissed a petition that six people, including Lee’s oldest brother Lee Sang-eun, filed against the special prosecutor law, giving the law a green light. The verdict came just 13 days after the filing.

Thanks to the high court’s decision, the special probe begins on Jan. 14, as planned. However, because of court’s rejection of one of the clauses, investigation into witnesses will be difficult within the 40-day probe period. Many say that the investigation is unlikely produce substantial results since it will be difficult to gain testimonies not ordinarily attained by average investigation procedures.

The court found the clause violated the constitution that requires warrants and bans excessive restrictions. The court also said the clause restrains the physical freedom of witnesses, which is a clear violation of the constitution.

As for the second clause which was criticized for targeting a particular person, the court said, “We don’t find the clause which targets a particular individual unconstitutional. If a decision by the National Assembly is not recognized to be excessively unfair, the decision should be respected.”

The third clause, which allows the chief justice to recommend a special prosecutor, has been criticized for violating the separation of powers. In reference to it, the court said, “Under the current system, the use of an independent counsel is decided by the National Assembly and appointment is made by the legislative branch. In light of the object and function of the special prosecutor system, it is not unconstitutional.”

Regarding the 10th clause that stipulates a swift ruling, the Constitutional Court said, “The clause will promptly resolve people’s suspicion and political chaos. It does not violate a defendant’s right to fair trial or to equality.”

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