South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Monday began the final hearing in President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment trial for her involvement in a corruption scandal.

However, President Park did not appear at the hearing and will instead have her defence attorney read her closing statement, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The prosecution’s final argument was made by the National Assembly impeachment panel, starting with Rep. Kwon Seong-dong of the minor conservative Bareun Party.

Park was impeached on December 9 for allegedly letting her friend Choi Soon-sil meddle in state affairs and colluding with her to extort money from local conglomerates.

If the court upholds the impeachment and permanently removes Park from office, South Korea is required to hold a presidential election within 60 days.

Dozens of Park’s supporters rallied to demand the court’s rejection of the impeachment. The protests were non-violent, although sometimes rowdy, prompting police to intervene and remove protesters from the site.

A group of anti-Park protesters held a separate rally outside the court before the hearing began.

Park’s lawyers are again expected to challenge the legitimacy of the trial. They have argued the court has been unfair toward the president by closing hearings at an early date.

Some of them have hinted they may not accept the court’s ruling because it will be delivered by eight justices instead of nine, following the retirement of Chief Justice Park Han-chul last month.

The court is expected to announce its ruling by March 13, when acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi is set to retire.

Some legal experts speculate that the court may break from past practice and announce the date of its ruling at the end of Monday’s hearing to prevent unnecessary social strife.

The court usually announces the date of a ruling three or four days in advance.

First Published | 27 February 2017 12:25 PM
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