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Ousted South Korean Leader Behind Bars After Arrest on Bribery Charges

SEOUL — Ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye was behind bars in the Seoul Detention Centre on Friday after her arrest, on charges including bribery, in a corruption scandal that has brought low some of the country's business and political elite.

In a dramatic fall from power, Park, 65, became South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office. She is accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses to contribute funds to foundations that backed her policy initiatives.

She and Choi, who is already in custody and on trial, deny any wrongdoing.

In the early hours of Friday, the Seoul Central District Court approved prosecutors' request for an arrest warrant for Park after she gave about eight hours of testimony.

Park and her lawyers had argued that she should not be arrested because she did not pose a flight risk and would not try to tamper with evidence. But the court disagreed, and said she might try to manipulate evidence.

IMAGE: Park Geun-hye
Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center, is transferred early Friday to a detention house in Seoul. Chung Sung-Jun / AP

Just before dawn, Park was driven to prison just outside Seoul in a black sedan, ashen-faced and flanked by two female officers in the back seat, her hair down apparently having removed the hairpins that held her hair in its usual classic chignon style.

Prosecutors now have 20 days to build their case while Park remains in detention.

Park's removal from office capped months of paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung Group, South Korea's largest "chaebol", or family-run conglomerate, in detention and on trial.

The political upheaval comes at a time of rising tensions with North Korea over its weapons program and with China, which is angry over South Korea's decision to host a U.S. anti-missile defense system.