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S Korea prosecutors quiz Hwang in stem cell fraud

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, Mar 2 (Reuters) South Korean prosecutors started questioning disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk today in their probe of suspected criminal fraud over debunked papers on embryonic stem cells.

A Seoul National University investigation panel said in January Hwang's team had intentionally fabricated data in two landmark studies on human embryonic stem cells. He resigned his post at the university in December.

Hwang did not answer questions from reporters before entering the prosecutors' office. His arrival was broadcast on national television networks.

This is the first time Hwang has been questioned by prosecutors since they started their probe in January. They have already questioned more than 50 people involved in the research.

Prosecutors are investigating Hwang and his team on suspicion of the fraudulent use of state funds, which is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, as well as violating bioethics laws in their procurement of human eggs for their studies.

Hwang's research had raised hopes because it seemed to hasten the day when genetically specific tissue could be grown from embryonic stem cells to repair damaged organs or treat diseases such as Parkinson's.

Hwang has said he is a victim of a conspiracy out to defame him and laid the blame for fraudulent data at the feet of junior researchers who were working for a fertility clinic.

One of those researchers was being questioned by prosecutors at the same time as Hwang.

REUTERS DH RAI0719

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