An appellate court on Tuesday acquitted Korean poet Ahn Do-hyun, who was accused of spreading false rumors and slandering then-presidential candidate Park Geun-hye.
The 54-year-old defendant was indicted on charges of violating the election law while working as a chairman of opposition candidate Moon Jae-in’s election committee in 2012.
The Gwangju High Court handed down a not-guilty verdict to Ahn, citing a lack of evidence to prove the prosecution’s charges.
“To prove the defendant’s crime, it needs to be recognized that Ahn’s accusations against presidential candidate Park are false. But the prosecution failed to provide the court with sufficient evidence,” Judge Lim Sang-ki said in his ruling.
Ahn welcomed the court’s decision, but said he regrets that he was “being judged by the law over making the slightest remarks (about Park) based on facts.”
Prosecutors said they would review the ruling to decide whether to appeal.
Charges against Ahn were brought to attention in December 2012 when the defendant posted 17 Twitter messages claiming that Park secretly owns a calligraphy work made by independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun during Japan’s colonial rule. The piece was designated a national treasure and is known to be missing.
Despite Ahn’s claim that the Twitter posts were based on past documents and testimonies, a district court gave him a suspended fine of 1 million won for defaming Park. The district court, however, acquitted him of circulating false rumors citing a lack of evidence.
But the prosecution requested the high court order Ahn to pay a fine of 10 million won, claiming that the defendant was aware of the impact of the posts he wrote online.
Ahn appealed to the judges in the first trial held last year, saying he was being “pressured not to write poems” and asked for “a wise judgment to be able to write poems again.”
Ahn currently teaches creative writing at Woosuk University, and is well known for his critical view on various social issues.
In 2012, he was chosen as one of the co-chairs of Moon’s election committee in the run-up to the December election.
By Suk Gee-Hyun (email@example.com