South Korean sect chief acquitted over COVID case surge

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The secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus was on the centre of public anger early final yr over a surge in circumstances traced to its followers.The aged chief of a secretive spiritual sect on the centre of an early coronavirus outbreak in South Korea has been discovered not responsible of hindering the federal government’s virus prevention efforts.
But a district court docket dominated on Wednesday that Lee Man-hee was responsible of embezzling billions of gained from his organisation and given a suspended jail sentence.
The Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is usually condemned as a cult, was on the centre of big controversy early final yr when it emerged that the church accounted for greater than half of South Korea’s coronavirus circumstances.
At the time, the nation was enduring one of many worst early outbreaks of the illness exterior China. It later introduced the virus below management with widespread testing and phone tracing and strict quarantine measures.
Shincheonji’s chief Lee, 89, was taken into custody in August and accused of giving well being authorities inaccurate data of church gatherings and false lists of its members.
Prosecutors final month requested a five-year jail time period.
Lee Man-hee, chief of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which was on the centre of the early coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, is launched from a detention centre in Suwon, South Korea [EPA-EFE]But the Suwon District Court cleared him of violating the infectious illness management legislation.
Lee apologised in March for the unfold of the illness, twice attending to his knees to bow earlier than reporters, his head to the ground.
“Although it was not intentional, many people have been infected,” he mentioned on the time.
“I seek the forgiveness of the people.”
The church has additionally apologised, whereas greater than 3,500 of its members who survived the virus donated blood plasma to assist therapy analysis.
Lee, who was arrested in August, was convicted on a separate cost of embezzling greater than 5.7 billion Korean gained ($5.2m) from Shincheonji and submitting false functions to carry spiritual occasions at public sports activities amenities.

He was given a three-year suspended jail time period.
Researchers say the sect proclaims Lee has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and can take 144,000 folks with him to heaven on the day of judgement.
In February, greater than 1.four million folks signed a petition on the South Korean presidential workplace web site demanding its dissolution.
Shincheonji is understood to have some 200,000 followers and has claimed its members face social stigma and discrimination if their beliefs develop into publicly identified, dissuading some from responding to official inquiries.
In latest weeks South Korea has a number of occasions recorded greater than 1,000 new circumstances a day – low by international requirements, however its highest figures so far – prompting the authorities to extend social distancing restrictions and step up testing.