South Korea sect leader arrested over coronavirus outbreak

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a news conference held by Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, in Seoul, on March 2, 2020. (REUTERS/Heo Ran/File Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2020

South Korea sect leader arrested over coronavirus outbreak

  • Members of Lee Man-hee's Shincheonji Church of Jesus account for 36% of South Korea's COVID-19 cases

SEOUL: South Korean authorities arrested the founder of a secretive Christian sect at the center of the country’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 infections on Saturday for allegedly hiding crucial information from contact-tracers and other offenses.
Lee Man-hee is the powerful head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus which is linked to more than 5,200 coronavirus infections, or 36% of South Korea’s total cases.
Prosecutors allege the 89-year-old conspired with other sect leaders to withhold information from authorities during the peak of the outbreak among his more than 200,000 followers.
Lee, who has described the novel coronavirus as the “devil’s deed” to stop the sect’s growth, allegedly hid details on members and their meeting places as authorities tried to trace infection routes in February, Yonhap news agency reported.
Lee is also suspected of embezzling about 5.6 billion won ($4.7 million) in church funds, including about 5 billion won which he allegedly used to build a retreat, Yonhap said.
The sect said in a statement that Lee was concerned about government demands for members’ personal information but never tried to hide anything.
Lee was arrested immediately after a court in Suwon District, south of Seoul, approved the warrant.
A prosecution official could not be reached outside of office hours.

 


Armenian president to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh with EU, NATO

Updated 40 min 8 sec ago

Armenian president to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh with EU, NATO

  • The trip follows more than three weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Armenia expects NATO and EU leaders to do “everything possible” to stop the fighting and to “bring to life” a cease-fire deal

YEREVAN: Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has left for Brussels to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with NATO and European Union officials, his office said on Wednesday.
During the visit he will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Council President Charles Michel, it said.
Armenia expects NATO and EU leaders to do “everything possible” to stop the fighting and to “bring to life” a cease-fire deal, it said.
The trip follows more than three weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is governed by ethnic Armenians.