Libyan leader pardons 2 South Koreans on trial

The two South Koreans were charged with violating Libya`s religious law.

Updated: Dec 30, 2010, 14:42 PM IST

Seoul: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has pardoned two South Koreans charged with violating the country`s religious law, the Foreign Ministry said, closing a case that overlapped with a separate diplomatic row.

The two South Koreans, identified only by their surnames, Koo and Jeon, were arrested earlier this year on charges of engaging in Christian missions work in the Muslim country.

Their arrests were seen as related to a dispute over allegations that a South Korean intelligence agent attempted to collect information on the Libyan leader and the country`s weapons systems.

Koo and Jeon were released in early October after the diplomatic row was resolved following a meeting between Gaddafi and South Korean lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, who is also a brother of President Lee Myung-bak. Still, Koo and Jeon have been barred from leaving Libya.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month that Libyan authorities had notified the two of their first hearing date set for December 07. The hearing has since been put off several times.

"The Libyan (government) has informed us that leader Gaddafi granted the amnesty to open a new chapter of bilateral cooperation on the 30th anniversary of the two countries` establishment of diplomatic ties," the ministry said in a statement yesterday. South Korea and Libya entered into diplomatic relations on December 29, 1980.

Koo and Jeon will be free to leave the North African nation and return to South Korea as soon as Libyan authorities complete necessary procedures, the ministry said, adding that an exact date has yet to be fixed.

The diplomatic row had seriously soured relations between the countries, with Libya suspending its de facto embassy in Seoul for months. The country reopened its mission after the dispute was resolved and indicated it would upgrade it to a full embassy.

In a bid to renew bilateral relations, South Korea recalled its ambassador to the North African nation and is expected to send a new envoy early next year.

PTI