Go Search Go Contents Go to bottom site map

(LEAD) Ex-spy chief imprisoned for 4 years for election meddling

2017/08/30 17:29

Article View Option

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES with more details throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court sentenced a former spy agency chief to four years in prison Wednesday, finding him guilty of meddling in the 2012 presidential election through a covert cyber operation.

The Seoul High Court handed down the verdict to Won Sei-hoon, who headed the National Intelligence Agency (NIS) from 2009 to 2013, more than two years after the top court sent the case back to the lower court for retrial, citing insufficient evidence.

The 66-year-old defendant was put behind bars immediately after the ruling. He has been on trial without detention after he was released on bail upon the top court's ruling.

The close confidant of former President Lee Myung-bak was indicted in 2013 for running an illicit smear campaign to sway voters in favor of then ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye. NIS officials hired hundreds of civilians to post Internet comments against her liberal rival Moon Jae-in. Park, who won the election, was ousted over a corruption scandal in March.

The appellate court ruled Won interfered in the 2012 vote and engaged in political activities in violation of both laws governing the election and the NIS. The previous rulings were mixed over whether the cyber operations he ordered constitute an illegal interference in the election.

The court ruled that posting any kind of online comment about a presidential contender around the election period can be seen as involvement in the election.

"The defendants went on a campaign for a particular candidate in a clear violation of its duty to maintain political neutrality as public servants," the court said.

The court accepted a substantial part of the prosecution's new evidence secured from an internal NIS probe result that was released early this month. It had recorded files of Won's speeches to his officials during a meeting, and a report on social media impact submitted to the then Lee Myung-bak government. All of them carried comments with heavy political bias.

"During the meeting, Won mentions the importance of the election, saying that NIS will be disbanded if the opposition wins. Any officials who hear this cannot but work to influence public opinion," the court said in the ruling.

It also noted that the SNS report raises enough suspicions that NIS had, on a regular basis, taken charge of "drawing up measures for the ruling party to win all kinds of elections."

   "They raised the risk of manipulating public opinion and appalled the general public by systematically meddling in politics and the election for a long period of time," it said.

Won's legal representative said he will appeal the ruling.

Two other NIS officials, who have been indicted for the same charges, got 2 1/2-year prison sentences suspended for four years.

Former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon, who is on trial for alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential election, enters the courthouse to hear the sentencing in southern Seoul on Aug. 30, 2017. (Yonhap) Former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon, who is on trial for alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential election, enters the courthouse to hear the sentencing in southern Seoul on Aug. 30, 2017. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr

(END)

angloinfo.com