Oral arguments in the hearing to decide whether a recent parliamentary vote to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be overturned began in Seoul's Constitutional Court on Thursday — and included a religious reference. One of the lawyers defending Park compared her impeachment trial to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Park is accused of helping a longtime friend to extort money and favors from companies in return for disclosing confidential government documents. Thursday's hearing began despite Park, who has had her powers suspended and handed over to the prime minister, not being present in court. Her lawyers have indicated that she does not intend to attend future proceedings.
Addressing the court, one her lawyers, Seo Seok-gu, claimed that the prosecution was “unjust” and fueled by the news media.
“Socrates was put to death, and Jesus crucified, in mob trials,” Seo said in reference to the National Assembly’s vote to impeach Park last month, according to the New York Times. “Our democracy is in danger because of so-called majority opinion instigated through demagogy.”
A separate hearing involving Park's close friend also got underway Thursday. Choi Soon-sil is accused of abuse of power and attempted fraud by using her political connections to extort $65 million from big businesses.
Like Park, Choi denied all allegations against her.
“There are many parts that are unfair to me," she said in court Thursday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Two of Park’s former aides were also present at the hearing because they've been accused of collaborating with Choi. Park has also been named as an accomplice, but she is immune from prosecution while in office.
Also Thursday, South Korea’s justice ministry filed an application to extradite the Choi's daughter, who was arrested in Denmark Sunday. Chung Yoo-ra is accused of receiving academic favors received as a result of her mother’s close links to the president. The professor accused of providing the favors was also questioned by special prosecutors.