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Court upholds acquittal of Sri Lankan in rape case

A South Korean appeals court Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling and cleared a Sri Lankan of charges that he robbed and raped an 18-year-old Korean girl in 1998.

The Daegu High Court found the 49-year-old not guilty of robbery and rape charges, citing lack of evidence, in the case investigated 13 years after the crime was committed.

“The testimonies made by eyewitnesses have many contradictory points, making them not valuable as evidence,” the court said.

The Sri Lankan man charged with robbing and raping an 18-year-old South Korean girl enters the Daegu High Court on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The Sri Lankan man charged with robbing and raping an 18-year-old South Korean girl enters the Daegu High Court on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The court did not rule out the possibility that the Sri Lankan raped her alone or with accomplices, given that the man’s sperm was found on the underwear of the victim, named Chung Eun-hye.

But even if the Sri Lankan committed the crime, he cannot be punished due to the expiration of the 10-year statute of limitations, the court added.

The Sri Lankan was suspected of taking Chung, who was intoxicated and on her way home from university, to an expressway overpass in Daegu to rape and rob her there with two others in October 1998.

The two suspected Sri Lankan accomplices to the crime returned to their country in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

Chung died after being hit by a 25-ton truck. At the time, the police had obtained her underwear some 30 meters away from the scene, but concluded the case as only a death by car accident.

The police reopened the probe in 2011 after it found that the Sri Lankan’s DNA matched the semen found on Chung’s underwear. The DNA result came after the Sri Lankan was arrested in a separate prostitution-related case.

The prosecution set up a task force and focused on proving his guilt, securing testimony on how the Sri Lankan first met Chung and what happened right before the victim died in a car crash.

The lower court acquitted him of the charges, citing insufficient evidence. The prosecution had sought life imprisonment.

The victim’s family, meanwhile, expressed outrage over the verdict and the direction of the probe that ruled out the possibility of a third suspect.

The family has claimed the prosecution had unreasonably pushed for the investigation to “justify” its accusations against the Sri Lankan despite uncertainty over who committed the crime.

“We don’t even have the energy anymore to protest the way the investigation was conducted,” a family member told local news media.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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