Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Poker-8 call foul on police conduct

I don't know how I missed this article in the Korea Herald two weeks ago, but it mentions the claims by the Poker-8 that they were abused by the police:
Foreign nationals booked for illegal gambling have raised complaints about the investigation into them by police.

Police say they caught eight foreign nationals gambling illegally in an apartment in Itaewon-dong and following further investigation and questioning, five more were booked without detention. One man was detained.

Two of the suspects tested positive for marijuana, but suspects say none was smoked at the apartment and none was reported found there.

However, the accused say that the police entered the building by force and threatened them with physical violence.

One of those booked said that two officers had to physically restrain another from attacking her boyfriend.

"When we first entered the office area, I sat down on a desk. The same officer that pushed me earlier came up from behind me and pushed me hard so that I fell off the desk," she added.

She also said that the police officer used aggressive tactics to influence her statement.

"I added, at the end of my statement, details about the unfair physical and verbal abuse which I mentioned previously. When the officer read what I wrote, he yelled at me, told me that I had to change my statement, and tore it up," she said. "I feel that I was forced to omit relevant information from my statement."

The suspects also say that seven out of the eight originally booked were told they had tested positive for marijuana, although five insist that such a result was not possible.
To be honest, the second paragraph and the last bit sounds like the same self-servingly deceptive stuff we've heard from them, (e.g., one of the arrestees' comment that "poker was allegedly being played"): They don't out right deny that they'd smoked marijuana in Korea recently, only that none had smoked at the apartment and no marijuana was found there, as if that technicality will help them wiggle out of the charge borne by the drug test.

Nevertheless, good on them (and the Korea Herald) for taking public their claims of police misconduct. If the accusations are true and not some exaggeration or misrepresentation, that certainly warrants some attention. Some serious attention, even if they are guilty of the charges.

But even if they're not accurate, it's one of those things that, due to the age-old adage that South Korean authorities often care — perhaps excessively — about foreign impressions, might lead to changes in police behavior, at least when dealing with foreign suspects. We've already seen that in some cases there is concern of certain tactics "violating human rights," even with "third-world" residents in Korea.

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