South Korean church leader acquitted of virus blocking charge: Yonhap By Reuters

By Hyonhee Shin SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean court acquitted the leader of a Christian cult accused of obstructing efforts to eradicate one of the world’s first major waves of novel coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the Yonhap news agency said. Lee Man-hee, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded and leads the Church of Jesus Shincheonji, had been accused of violating the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act by providing incomplete lists of church members requested by health authorities to track suspicions. of coronavirus infections. The church was at the center of the first major COVID-19 epidemic outside of China early last year, with nearly 4,200 of its 310,000 followers infected after attending a service in Daegu city. Authorities at the time complained that Lee was not fully cooperating when it came to providing the names of everyone who might have attended services at the church. Prosecutors had requested a five-year prison term and fines of 3 million won ($ 2,700) for Lee. Lee denied any wrongdoing. He apologized that some members of the church had caught the virus. The Suwon District Court cleared him of the charges, saying the church membership lists were not key elements of epidemiological surveys as defined in the law, Yonhap said. However, the court found Lee guilty of embezzling 5.6 billion won ($ 5.11 million) of church funds to build a residence and using government facilities for religious services without approval, and imposed a suspended prison sentence. four years. Court officials were not immediately available for comment. The church welcomed Lee’s acquittal of the COVID-19 allegations, but expressed “deep regret” that he was found guilty of the other charges. He said he would appeal to prove his innocence. ($ 1 = 1,094.9900 won)

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