NATIONAL

Korean prisoner in Honduras may soon be released on bail

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  • Published : Mar 30, 2010 - 12:51
  • Updated : Mar 30, 2010 - 12:51
Han Ji-soo, a 26-year-old Korean female held in a Honduran prison, is expected to be released on bail following the third hearing this week, diplomatic sources said yesterday.
If a constitutional petition filed to invalidate the previous two hearings is accepted by the highest court in Honduras, Han`s ordeal may end as early as the end of this year.
If not, she is likely to stand trial in February, but still be released from prison on bail.
"The government is pretty confident that the chances for the Honduran judicial system to release Han Ji-soo on bail are very high, not to mention that it has secured critical evidence proving that this woman is innocent," said a Korean official privy to the matter.
A six-member group of Foreign Ministry officials, legal and investigative experts returned from a week-long trip to Honduras on Sunday after meeting with high-profile Honduran officials to discuss Han`s predicament.
Shortly ahead of the trip, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement requesting that the Honduran judiciary allow Han to stand on trial out of prison, on condition that Han is denied access to a passport or a travel certificate.
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The latest ministry delegation was the first such group to head toward a foreign nation on a mission to save a wrongly accused citizen. It embarked on the trip as the media and public lashed out at the government for failing to protect Han and her rights.
In Honduras, the ministry officials lodged a protest with high-profile judicial authorities including the prosecutor general that there were serious legal violations involved in Han`s arrest.
"The team tried to get the message across that the Korean government would do everything in its power to keep its people safe," said one source working closely with the delegation.
Han was arrested in Egypt while working as a diving coach in August.
She was on her way home to Korea when the Interpol caught up with her and sent her to Honduras, via the Netherlands.
She was charged for murdering a Dutch woman back in August last year when the two were together studying for a diving master license on an island in Honduras.
The woman died in the room of one of Han`s diving coaches in the wee hours of Aug. 23 while Han dashed to a nearby neighbor for help.
Han later managed to receive her license despite the case and left Honduras in September. She was working as a diving coach in Egypt when the Interpol arrested her.
The Honduran government reportedly saw Han and her diving coach as accomplices in murder, a charge Han vehemently denies. The prosecution in Honduras slapped Han with a 30-year sentence in prison.
The Korean woman claims that she was denied key rights during the process, including her right to get in touch with the Korean consul while in Egypt.
Han`s family, meanwhile, has been calling for stronger action from the government to get Han safely out of Honduras.
Before the government sent out its recent request to keep Han out of prison for her trial, her family members had been skeptical of the effectiveness of such a document, which kept them from applying for bail.
"There was a lack of mutual trust," a diplomatic source said.
Han`s family may have been rightly suspicious since it took the government several weeks to get in touch with Han in Honduras.
There are currently more than 1,300 Koreans currently incarcerated overseas for various charges.
(jemmie@heraldcorp.com)

By Kim Ji-hyun