Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday denied all charges against her in a sprawling corruption scandal, for which she could potentially be imprisoned, while prosecutors pushed for a speedy trial amid growing pressure to prove themselves.
Police escorted her in handcuffs with her eyes downcast, into court for her first public appearance since she was jailed on March 31, 2017 based on the same corruption allegations that led to her removal from office.
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye has entered the Seoul court for the opening of her corruption trial.
The corruption scandal removed Park from office on March 10, which triggered the earlier-than-scheduled May 9 presidential election. Choi also said that her only crime is having made Park stand in the court.
For many other South Koreans, including the millions who protested as news of Choi and Park's alleged collusion broke late previous year, the small gestures - of defiance from Park and anguish from Choi - will say more than any words can.
She is now on trial on 18 charges including bribery and extortion in relation to some $50 million she and Choi are alleged to have taken or solicited from three big conglomerates.
Her lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, dismissed the charges as based on news articles, while Park was quoted by local news agency Yonhap as saying, "My stance is the same as my attorneys".
Tuesday's court hearing marks the beginning of a closely watched trial that follows months of public protests, parliamentary hearings and the arrests of some of the country's most prominent figures, including Samsung Electronics Co. "Yes", Park replied, "I have the same position as the lawyers".More news: New Texas law aims to crack down on teacher misconduct with students
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All five are on trial for allegedly giving $38m (£31m) in bribes to Park and Choi in exchange for government support for a controversial merger. The next hearing was scheduled for Thursday.
"This will remain a page in history and I wanted to see for myself Park on trial", said Heo, adding she had participated in the candlelight rallies previous year that drew millions of SouthKoreans to the street in peaceful protests.
The 65-year-old Park has denied all wrongdoing, blaming Choi for abusing their friendship. She is also accused of pressuring private companies to provide funds for 2 foundations closely associated with Choi.
During a televised apology in October, Ms. Park described Ms. Choi as a close friend who "helped her during hard times in the past".
Cosy and corrupt ties between South Korea's business and political elites have endured for decades and the trial could shed new light on the links between Park and the bosses of the family-run conglomerates that dominate Asia's fourth-biggest economy.
Prosecutors say Park colluded with her friend and that between them they secured tens of millions of dollars for themselves.
Asked if she had any additional statement, Park said, "I will in the future".