Pastor Jun Kwang-hoon (C) speaks to the press in front of the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul on Wednesday, after he was found not guilty of charges of election law violation and libel against President Moon Jae-in. (Yonhap)
A conservative pastor, best known for his mass anti-government rallies in central Seoul, was acquitted Wednesday of charges of premature electioneering and libel against President Moon Jae-in.
The Seoul Central District Court made the ruling in the case of Jun Kwang-hoon, 64, head pastor of Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, who was indicted in March over remarks he made during some of the protests and prayer services.
He was charged with violating election laws for rallying participants between December 2019 and January 2020 to support the main opposition party in the April 15 parliamentary elections.
The sharp-tongued clergyman was also accused of defaming Moon by saying the liberal president was a spy and was trying to communize South Korea during a rally he led in central Seoul in November 2019.
The court found him not guilty of all the charges, saying they were not proven. The court said that when Jun made the comments, the political parties had not yet nominated their candidates for the elections.
The court also ruled his remarks on Moon do not constitute libel because they are just figurative or exaggerated expressions used to criticize Moon's political inclination.
The prosecution had demanded 2 1/2 years in prison.
Jun was arrested in February but released on bail in April. He was reincarcerated in September after he was found to have violated bail conditions by taking part in large rallies in the summer.
The controversial pastor tested positive for the new coronavirus two days after he joined a Liberation Day demonstration on Aug. 15, which was partly blamed for a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country. He was released from the hospital on Sept. 2 after treatment. (Yonhap)