Coronavirus: South Korea arrests Shincheonji church leader for stalling virus containment efforts

The leader of a controversial religious group that was a hotbed of infection in the early stages of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak was arrested on Saturday morning (Aug 1) on suspicion of obstructing the government’s efforts to contain the virus’ spread.

An arrest warrant for 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church, was issued by the district court in Suwon City, south of Seoul, following a 10-hour pre-trial hearing on Friday.

Despite Lee’s advanced age, the court said he was healthy enough to stand trial while held in custody at a detention centre.

Lee is accused of hampering virus containment efforts by ordering church officials not to disclose followers’ identities or the locations of the secretive indoctrination sessions that were blamed for fuelling the spread of contagion in the country earlier this year.

Lee also stands accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won (US$4.69 million) from church funds and directing his followers to destroy incriminating evidence – something the court said he would continue to do if allowed to remain free while standing trial, according to Yonhap news agency.

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