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Court upholds embezzlement conviction of disgraced cloning scientist

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Published : 2014-02-27 15:06
Updated : 2014-02-27 17:03

The nation's top court on Thursday upheld a suspended jail sentence imposed on Hwang Woo-suk, a disgraced cloning scientist who had claimed major breakthroughs in stem-cell research, for embezzling government research funds.

Hwang, a former professor at Seoul National University, was convicted of embezzling research funds he had been granted by the government and other agencies based on falsified research that purported to show he had created the world's first cloned human embryos.      

The Supreme Court rejected the scientist's final appeal in an eight-year-long legal battle and upheld a lower court's verdict of the 18-month sentence, with a two-year stay of execution.

The court also upheld a lower court's decision to acquit Hwang, a 61-year-old veterinarian by training, of fraud charges.

In 2004, Hwang became known as an international pioneer when he and his team claimed in papers published in the journal Science that they had created the world's first cloned human embryos and had extracted stem cells from them. Many experts and patients expressed hopes that the apparent breakthrough might lead to cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Hwang's fame, however, turned to infamy after his work was found to have been partially fabricated, prompting a criminal investigation and the government to strip him of his license to carry out stem-cell research.

In 2006, prosecutors indicted Hwang on charges of fraud, misusing state funds and violating bioethics laws. His school, SNU, also fired him for fabricating the papers.

In a separate ruling on Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court's decision that SNU's dismissal of Hwang was illegal, and sent the case for a retrial.

The Supreme Court said that the Seoul High Court should again review whether it was justifiable for the nation's most prestigious university to disown the former veterinary professor. (Yonhap)

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