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Feb 16, 4:06 AM EST

SKorean court refuses to allow search of presidential palace


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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A South Korean court on Thursday denied a bid by prosecutors to force aides of impeached President Park Geun-hye to comply with a search on the presidential compound.

The decision by the Seoul Administrative Court was an apparent setback for the special prosecution team that must conclude its inquiry into Park's corruption allegations by the end of the month.

The prosecutors filed the lawsuit last week after Park's aides blocked them from searching the presidential Blue House although they had a search warrant.

The court said the matter cannot be determined through an administrative lawsuit because Park's aides blocked the search based on criminal litigation laws that allow sites containing state secrets to do so. It also said the country's laws don't allow administrative lawsuits between state organizations.

South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament in December voted to impeach Park amid suspicions that she helped her friend extort money and favors from companies and allowed the woman to manipulate state affairs. Prosecutors also want to question Park in person over the allegations, but have not yet determined when and how to do so.

The Constitutional Court, which will decide whether Park should permanently step down or be reinstated to office, said Thursday that it will close arguments on Feb. 24, which indicates the ruling could come in early March.

If Park is formally unseated, a presidential election must be held within 60 days.

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