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Court approves warrant for ex-leader Park's arrest

Ousted president can be held in a cell for up to 20 days while she is probed on multiple charges, including bribery.

A South Korean court has approved a warrant to arrest ousted President Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office earlier this month over corruption allegations - the first democratically elected leader ever to be arrested in the country.

The ruling early on Friday by the Seoul Central District Court came after Park, 65, faced nearly nine hours of questioning over a number of charges, including bribery and abuse of presidential power.

The former president can now be held in a cell for up to 20 days while she is being investigated.

Park had her removal from office confirmed by the country's top court on March 10, ending her executive immunity, and her prosecution has been a key demand of millions of people who took to the streets to protest against her.

She has been accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, and a former presidential aide, both of whom have been on trial, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.

Park is also accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours, including the backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that was seen to support the succession of control over the country's largest "chaebol" conglomerate.

The former president has denied any legal wrongdoing. She apologised for putting trust in Choi, but said she only let her edit some of her presidential speeches and provide the president with some "public relations" help.

Park, daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, is also said to have ordered aides to leak secret state files to Choi, and to have cracked down on thousands of artists who had voiced criticism of her or her father's rule from 1961 to 1979.

Park was elected in 2012, largely thanks to a bedrock of support among older, conservative voters who benefited from rapid economic growth under her father's rule.


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