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SEOUL, South Korea — Park Geun-hye, the recently deposed president of South Korea, was formally indicted on corruption charges Monday. Prosecutors say the 18 charges include bribery, extortion, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.
It is the latest in the fall from grace for South Korea’s first female president who was driven from office by massive and peaceful popular protests.
Park, 65, was impeached in December, officially stripped of power in March and has been in a detention facility near Seoul since being arrested last month on allegations that she extorted from businesses, took bribes and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante.
Prosecutors also indicted Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte, South Korea's fifth-largest business conglomerate, on a charge of offering a bribe of $6 million to Park and her friend Choi Soon-sil in exchange for a lucrative government license to open a new duty free shop.
"It really is a pity that we have the third president indicted on bribery charges. But, this is what the people wanted to see, that no one in South Korea can be above the law," Kwon Young Gook, a lawyer representing “The Movement to Oust Park Guen Hye,” an umbrella group of local non-governmental organizations, told NBC News.
His group led months of candlelight vigils that eventually led to her impeachment and subsequent arrest.
If convicted, Park's bribery charge carries the biggest punishment, ranging from 10 years in prison to life imprisonment.
She has denied any legal wrongdoing and is expected to stage a fierce legal battle.