GWANGJU, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Former President Chun Doo-hwan will not attend a court hearing on a defamation case related to claims made in his memoir due to cold and high fever, his lawyer said Sunday.
"He is unable to go out because he has a bad cold with a fever of 39 degrees Celsius. He cannot travel to Gwangju to stand trial," the lawyer, Chung Joo-gyo, told Yonhap News Agency by the phone. "He is old, has a high fever and doesn't eat well, so I explained the situation to the court and prosecution by phone on Thursday and sent a letter requesting the date for the court hearing to be changed."
The lawyer stressed that the former president is just sick and has no intention of evading the hearing.
The hearing was set to take place at the Gwangju District Court on Monday at 2:30 p.m.
The 87-year-old Chun, who served as president from 1980 to 1988, was indicted in May on charges that his memoir defamed victims of his 1980 crackdown on a pro-democracy revolt in Gwangju.
The former president was accused of libeling activist priest Cho Chul-hyun, who said he witnessed the military firing at citizens from helicopters during the bloody suppression of the protests against Chun's rule. Chun denied the claim in his memoirs published in 2017. He called Cho "Satan wearing a mask" and claimed what he said was a flat-out lie. Prosecutors began an investigation after a relative of Cho filed a complaint. If convicted, Chun could face up to two years in prison or up to 5 million won (US$4,550) in fines.
The first court hearing for Chun was scheduled to be held in Gwangju on Aug. 27 but was cancelled because he didn't show up, citing his Alzheimer's disease.
The former president then filed a petition demanding that the jurisdiction of his case be changed to Seoul from Gwangju where he "cannot be treated fairly." But the petition was not accepted.
An official with the Gwangju District Court said the court will decide whether to take him into custody after watching he actually does not attend Monday's hearing and reviewing the reason.
The former Army general seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country until early 1988. He was sentenced to death in 1996 for treason and bribery. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the highest court, and he was released in December 1997 on a presidential pardon.