Former President Lee Myung-bak insisted on his innocence at the first hearing in his corruption trial on Wednesday, claiming that he has been wrongly accused for political reasons.
The 77-year-old former leader showed up at the Seoul Central District Court, marking his first public appearance in two months after his arrest over a string of charges including bribery and embezzlement, Yonhap news agency reported.
“I feel deeply sad … the indictment is far-fetched,” he said. “It is painful to fight against people whom I worked while leading this country.”
Lee, the President from 2008 to 2013, was indicted on April 9 on 16 counts of corruption, making himself the country’s fourth former leader to face trial.
He has been accused of accepting about 11.1 billion won ($$10.3 million) in bribes, including $5.85 million in lawsuit expenses that Samsung Electronics paid on behalf of an auto parts company Lee is suspected of owning.
He is suspected of embezzling about 35 billion won from the auto parts firm DAS and using the money for political and personal purposes.
Some of his closest aides have been put behind bars for their involvement in the alleged crimes. Lee was arrested in March and has been under pre-sentencing detention.
He has denied any wrongdoing and claimed the investigation against him was political retaliation by the liberal Moon Jae-in government.
He again pleaded not guilty in Wednesday’s hearing. Regarding his suspected DAS ownership, he insisted it was his brother’s firm and raised questions over whether it was “right for the state to intervene in” such a family business.
“The charges related to DAS are something that is just incomprehensible to the extent of my common sense,” Lee said.
Lee strongly refuted the charge related to Samsung’s suspected lawsuit fees, saying it was “a shock and an insult” to accuse him of the crime.
Lee also asked the court to review the credibility of all evidence presented by the prosecution.
He apologized to the public as a former President appearing as a defendant in a criminal trial. He called on the judiciary to take his hearing as an opportunity to prove its principle of impartiality.