July 16, 2015 / 7:58 AM / 4 years ago

South Korea court orders retrial of ex-spy chief in vote-meddling case

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the retrial of a former spy chief after evidence used in his conviction for meddling in a 2012 presidential election was deemed inadmissible.

Won Sei-hoon (C), former chief of South Korea's state intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), arrives at a parliamentary investigative committee at parliament in Seoul August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

In February, a court jailed the former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Won Sei-hoon, for three years for attempting to influence the outcome of the vote that put President Park Geun-hye in office.

The Supreme Court’s decision is not expected to have any immediate impact on Park or her administration.

Park denied benefiting from attempts by NIS agents to sway voters but said after another scandal at the intelligence agency last year that more could be done to reform it.

In its chequered history, the spy agency has undergone two name changes and numerous reforms in a bid to shed its image as a presidential tool and to focus on counterespionage against rival North Korea.

Prosecutors accused Won in his trial of directing NIS agents to sway public opinion in favour of Park by posting comments on Twitter and other forums against her liberal opposition candidates.

Won denied the charges.

The court said it was unclear if some incriminating files found on computers used by agents said to be involved in the operation were work-related.

“Under circumstances where (these) facts have not been confirmed, it is not possible to look into whether or not there was any political interference or involvement in the election campaign,” chief justice Yang Sung-tae said.

The decision to overturn the verdict was unanimous among the panel of 13 judges, according to Yang.

Won was NIS chief from 2009 to 2013 under Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by James Pearson, Robert Birsel

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