Former South Korean leader gets 24 years in prison

Pic Reuters

Park has been held at a detention center near Seoul since her arrest in March 2017, after she was removed from office on a landmark court ruling.

While Choi was earlier sentenced to 20 years behind bars, Seoul Central District Court found Park guilty of 16 charges, including coercing tens of millions of dollars from the country's largest conglomerates.

Korean Culture and Information Service, CC BY-SA 2.0)"The President abused the power which was given to her by the citizens", the judge said.

She is the daughter of another president, Park Chung-hee, who seized power in 1961 and was assassinated eight years later.

Prosecutors had sought 30 years of jail-term and fine of 80 million pound. She has been in prison for more than a year, but has refused to appear in court for most of her hearings.

South Korea has been in turmoil since 2016 when it was revealed how much adviser and close confidant Choi Soon-sil wielded power over Park.

"We can not help but sternly hold her accountable", Kim said. She was arrested weeks later. Park Geun-hye's first reaction to her father's death is reportedly to check on the security status at the border with North Korea, comments that inspire supporters to say she deserves a national leadership role.

Kang Cheol-gu told reporters after the ruling that he believes the "appeals court and the Supreme Court will make a different judgment".

"The truth will be revealed one day". Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of Park had gathered to watch the verdict on a large screen, waving Korean and USA flags and calling for her release.

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Park, 66, was found guilty of 16 of the 18 charges she faced, related to a massive influence-peddling case that removed her from office previous year.

Moon's office described Park's fate as "heartbreaking" for the nation. "However, a bleak and dry wind blew across all of us today", said spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

People walk past a giant screen broadcasting the sentence to the impeached President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea, April 6, 2018.

But Moon took office pledging to end the practice of pardoning public and corporate officials convicted of corruption.

Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin was put under court custody in February with a sentence of two and a half years in jail for bribery.

Park's supporters and opponents reflect divisions in a society still haunted by Cold War antagonism.

Park has legions of loyal supporters, a lot of them older conservatives who remember her father's authoritarian 18-year rule, beginning in 1961, when their country began its remarkable surge toward becoming an economic power.

Less than four years later, she was impeached, stripped of all her powers and ousted from office on the back of months-long mass protests that brought millions on to the streets of Seoul and other cities.

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