South Korean lawmaker Lee Seok-ki denies plotting pro-Pyongyang revolt
A leftist South Korean lawmaker on Tuesday denied charges of plotting an armed revolt in support of North Korea, calling himself the victim of a “witch hunt” by security authorities.
“I can say for certain that I’ve never plotted a rebellion,” United Progressive Party MP Lee Seok-ki said at the start of his sedition trial at a court in Suwon south of Seoul.
After parliament voted to lift his immunity from arrest, Lee was charged in September with planning an armed revolt in support of North Korea.
Last week the government petitioned the constitutional court to disband Lee’s party, which fielded a candidate in the presidential race last year.
The sedition charges levelled against Lee are rarely used, especially against a sitting member of parliament.
Six of his supporters also stood trial on similar charges.
Security was tight outside the court with riot police on guard as hundreds of conservative and liberal activists shouting slogans staged noisy rival rallies, according to Yonhap news agency.
It said three conservative activists were kicked out of the courtroom after shouting “Send Lee to North Korea!”
Prosecutors accused Lee of telling an underground radical group in May to prepare attacks on South Korea’s communication lines and railways in case of war with the North.
Lee allegedly made his remarks at a time of soaring military tensions between North and South.
At Tuesday’s hearing he dismissed the charges as fabricated, insisting he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service.
Prosecutors said Lee headed a group that formed the core of his party and praised North Korea’s ruling family and political system.
But Lee said his remarks in May were prompted by worries about a possible US invasion of North Korea.
He also accused the National Intelligence Service of inventing evidence to indicate he had acted on orders from the North.
His party has accused the spy agency of using the case to deflect attention from a scandal involving attempts by agents to smear the opposition candidate last year’s presidential election.
Lee has been in trouble for his political views before.
In 2002 he was sentenced to two and a half years for anti-government activities. He received a presidential pardon later the same year.