Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A South Korean dictator in power during the 1980 Gwangju Uprising has been sentenced to prison for eight months for defaming a Roman Catholic priest.
South Korea's Gwangju District Court sentenced former President Chun Doo-hwan, 89, to prison for libel, but suspended incarceration for two years. Chun had been convicted of defaming Cho Chul-hyun, the priest who claimed military helicopters fired at civilians in Gwangju, the Korea Herald reported Monday.
In 2017, Chun had described Cho as "Satan wearing a mask" in his memoir, while denying any helicopter shots were fired at protesters in the city.
During the trial prosecutors introduced as many as 20 witnesses who said they saw helicopters firing at civilians. Following the court decision Monday, prosecutors could appeal and seek a longer prison term of 18 months for Chun, according to the report.
Chun was a South Korean army major general in 1979 when he staged a military coup. Newly declassified U.S. documents released to Seoul this year show Washington's top envoy to Korea warning of a group of "Young Turks" who had "seized power from the established authorities."
The Gwangju Uprising began after Chun expanded martial law on May 17, 1980.
South Korea's ruling Democratic Party condemned Chun on Monday after the court decision.
"Mr. Chun Doo-hwan again appeared today in court and uttered not one word of apology," said Choi In-ho, chief spokesman of the party, according to News 1. "He was also busy dozing off at the time of his sentencing."
Chun was diagnosed previously with Alzheimer's disease, according to local press reports.
Top politicians in the ruling party said the suspended sentence is "regrettable," according to Yonhap.
Gov. Lee Jae-myung of Gyeonggi Province suggested heavier punishment is appropriate for Chun, according to Yonhap.
"The machine-gunning of civilians would be impossible without the order of the ultimate commander of the military," Lee said Monday on Facebook.