Updated August. 22, 2014 03:15
Five lawmakers facing graft charges appeared before courts Thursday to attend hearings to review the legality of their arrests after prosecutors moved to forcefully take the legislators into custody. The appearances came just four hours before the start of an extraordinary parliamentary session, which would grant them the non-arrest privilege. However, politicians who vowed to give up their non-arrest privilege at every election played hide-and-seek games with prosecutors all day long Thursday.
From Thursday morning, Representatives Shin Geh-ryoon, Kim Jae-yun and Shin Hak-yong of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Representatives Cho Hyon-ryong and Park Sang-eun asked the judiciary to postpone the review hearings. They are accused of taking bribes or illegal political funds from a local vocational school or companies.
Soon after the prosecution sought warrants for the detainment of the lawmakers, the NPAD submitted to the National Assembly just before midnight on Tuesday, the last day of the July extraordinary parliamentary session, a request for an August extraordinary session. Once the August session begins at 00:00 Friday after three days of public notice on the extraordinary session, the prosecution cannot arrest lawamkers without the National Assembly`s consent. Therefore, any postponement of their warrant review hearings is not an option. Therefore, the prosecution concluded that the lawmakers had run away to avoid arrest. Cho disappeared, with his mobile phone turned off. Shin, Kim and Park also could not be reached from Wednesday night.
The prosecution tried to locate the suspects from Wednesday night and concluded on Thursday morning that they were not willing to appear at the hearings. Then, three prosecutors and 40 investigators were dispatched to the lawmakers` offices and residences to forcefully take them before the courts.
Shin, who was in his office at the National Assembly on Thursday morning, consulted with his lawyer, before promising to voluntarily show up at the court. The other two opposition lawmakers followed suit. As only the Saenuri party lawmakers were running away, trying to take advantage of a parliamentary session called by the opposition party, the ruling party also started to find out the whereabouts of Park and Cho. Soon, the two sent messages to the prosecution that they would voluntarily show up.
A Seoul court reviewed the arrest warrants for Kim, Shim, Shin and Cho, while an Incheon court interrogated Cho. The courts plan to decide whether to issue arrest warrants for them before the August extraordinary session begins.