South Korea ordered to pay $2m over false spy claim

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Secretive, militaristic North Korea is viewed with fear by the South

A South Korean fisherman who was falsely imprisoned as a spy for 15 years and tortured has been awarded more than 2.45bn won ($2m: £1.25m) in compensation by a court in Seoul.

The man, identified only by his surname, Cheong, is now in his 70s.

He and six members of his family, who were also targeted by South Korea's security services, sued the government after being cleared of all charges.

Mr Cheong was accused in the early 1980s of spying for North Korea.

He was detained by the authoritarian, military-backed government then in power in South Korea and interrogated by anti-espionage agents.

"After arresting him without a warrant, the authorities tortured him to obtain a false confession and coerced witnesses to make false testimonies," Judge Rhee Woo-jae said in his ruling.

"The court also handed down a guilty verdict without verifiable evidence."

He added: "Even after being released on parole, the victim was monitored by law enforcement agencies. This is illegal conduct in which the state infringed upon the victim's basic rights."

Mr Cheong was among a large group of fishermen seized by North Korea in 1965 while fishing close to the two countries' disputed sea border.

They were released shortly afterwards, but the stay in North Korean custody led to the accusations of spying nearly two decades later.

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