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Ex-South Korea leader's defence lawyers quit over alleged bias

[SEOUL] Former South Korean president Park Geun-hye's defence lawyers resigned en masse on Monday in protest at what they called a biased corruption trial, as the ex-leader described the proceedings as "political revenge".

Park faces multiple charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering governmental favours to tycoons, and is being held in custody.

She was impeached by Parliament after months of mass protests against her over a sprawling graft scandal, and the constitutional court upheld the decision in March, dismissing her from office. She went on criminal trial in May.

The warrant for Park's detention was extended for six months last week, with the court citing the risk that she could destroy evidence if released.

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At Monday's hearing her lawyers submitted their resignations in protest at alleged bias and said the principle of the presumption of innocence was "collapsing", the Yonhap news agency reported.

"As we've reached a conclusion that any defence argument for the defendant is meaningless, all of us decided to resign," one of them, Yoo Yeong-ha, told the court.

The court asked them to reconsider since the proceedings cannot continue without defence lawyers.

State attorneys will be appointed to defend Park if her own lawyers insist on withdrawing, but the replacement will take time as new representatives would have to review more than 100,000 pages of evidence.

In her first comments to the court since the proceedings began, Park said: "I've come to the conclusion that it's meaningless to believe that the court will handle the case only in accordance with the constitution and conscience", in the face of external political winds and public pressure.

The past six months had been a "horrible and miserable time", during which she had "endured pain in my body and mind".

AFP