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Former Seoul police chief convicted in death of activist farmer

An appellate court on Friday sentenced a former Seoul police chief to a fine of 10 million won ($8,260) in the 2015 death of an activist farmer who was hit by a police water cannon, reversing a lower court's judgment of acquittal.

The Seoul High Court meted out the penalty to Goo Eun-soo, who served as commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency from 2014 to 2015, after convicting him of negligent homicide in the death of Beak Nam-ki, who fell unconscious after being shot directly by a police water cannon during an anti-government rally in Seoul in November 2015. The farmer, in his 60s, was in a coma before he died of acute renal failure in September 2016.

Goo Eun-soo (Yonhap)
Goo Eun-soo (Yonhap)

A Seoul district court acquitted Goo of the criminal charge, saying it was difficult to hold him responsible for specific anti-riot tactics used by low-ranking police officers.

But the Seoul High Court issued a different ruling, saying Goo, as the top officer in charge of the anti-riot operations, was supposed to have foreseen the possibility of injuries of riot police or protesters.

"The defendant was obliged to exercise his command over field officers in order to prevent an excessive use of water cannon and take necessary measures," the appellate court said.

The court also upheld a fine of 10 million won for Shin Yun-kyun, then-chief of the 4th riot squad of the Seoul police agency, while sentencing two low-ranking officers who operated the water cannon during the 2015 rally to fines of 7 million and 10 million won, respectively. (Yonhap)