S.Korea seeks 4-year prison term for stem cell fraud

Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:03am EDT
 
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By Christine Kim and Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean prosecutors told a Seoul court on Monday they wanted a four-year prison term for disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose research team has been linked to major fraud in its once-celebrated stem cell studies.

Hwang, once a scientist with rock-star like status in South Korea for his research that brought the country to the forefront of stem cell studies, is facing trial on charges of fraud, misusing 2.8 billion won ($2.25 million) in state funds and violating bioethics laws.

Prosecutors said Hwang brought shame to the country and harm to scientific research in South Korea.

"The disappointment felt by the (Korean) people is enormous," one of the team of prosecutors told the court.

Hwang, who has apologized for fraud in his team's work, has denied any wrongdoing and said he was duped by junior researchers into believing the landmark results

Lee Bong-gu, a lawyer for Hwang, said: "These people, including the prosecutors are trying to tear apart Hwang's precious scientific evidence."

Hwang's trial at a nondescript Seoul court has been going on for about three years, and could stretch into a fourth, legal experts said. It has been bogged down in the technical testimony from scores of scientists about the research done by his team.

His supporters have staged emotional rallies over the years and filled the court for each of what are typically monthly hearings, saying Hwang is a scientific savior who should be given a second chance.   Continued...

 
<p>Scientist Hwang Woo-suk (C) arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul August 24, 2009, as reporters try to ask questions. South Korean prosecutors told a Seoul court on Monday they wanted a four-year prison term for the disgraced scientist Hwang, whose research team has been linked to major fraud in its once-celebrated stem cell studies. Hwang, once a scientist with rock-star like status in South Korea for his research that brought the country to the forefront of stem cell studies, is facing trial on charges of fraud, misusing 2.8 billion won ($2.25 million) in state funds and violating bioethics laws. REUTERS/Park Ji-ho/Yonhap (SOUTH KOREA SCI TECH CRIME LAW HEADSHOT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA</p>