Authorities in South Korea have arrested the leader of a church linked to a significant number of the country’s confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Lee Man-hee, the 88-year-old chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was taken into custody by prosecutors in the central city of Suwaon on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.
Lee has been charged with hiding some members of the church from the country’s broad coronavirus testing and has also been accused of underreporting the size of the church’s gatherings to the government.
The church and its leader have vehemently denied the accusations, saying they have cooperated with health officials. Church spokesperson Kim Young-eun told the AP that the church will work hard to make sure “the truth is clearly proved in court.”
Of South Korea’s 14,336 confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 5,200 have been linked to the church. Mass testing was one of South Korea’s main weapons in successfully suppressing the spread of the pandemic, despite the country’s close proximity to China, the original epicenter of the virus.