Former South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been arrested and jailed over a high profile corruption scandal that has already seen her ousted from office and prompted early elections.
A court approved her arrest before dawn on Friday, on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, and Ms Park, 65, was immediately driven to a detention centre in the south of the capital, Seoul.
“The court’s decision is another bitter blow for the former president, who earlier this month became the first democratically elected South Korean leader to be forced from office after she was impeached four years into her five year term.” The Telegraph reports
Park’s arrest followed a lengthy court hearing in Seoul, the country’s capital, at which the judge decided there was enough evidence to warrant the arrest.
“Major allegations were explained and proved and there were concerns over evidence destruction,” Seoul’s Central District Court said in a text message.
Amid the corruption investigation, Park was impeached and removed from office on March 10.
She will now remain in jail while prosecutors seek a formal indictment, which they said should come within the next three weeks.
“I feel apologetic toward the nation’s citizens,” Park said last week. “I’ll cooperate in the questioning sincerely.”
South Korea will elect a new president in May, and experts say it’s likely that Park’s conservative ruling party will be defeated in the vote after nearly a decade in power.
Looking strained, Ms Park was whisked to the jail in a black sedan, where she was greeted by a small group of supporters shouting for her release and waving the national flag .
State prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her and they are expected to do so on charges of extortion, bribery and abuse of power by mid-April. If convicted she could face more than 10 years in prison.
Ms Park is the third former president to be jailed since South Korea became a democracy in 1988.
Former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both previously army generals, received a life sentence and a 17 year prison term respectively in 1996, on charges of treason and bribery. They were pardoned a year later.
Ms Park was elected in 2012 amid a wave of conservative nostalgia for her late dictator father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule is remembered by both rapid economic progress and human rights abuses. She has denied all of the charges against her.