Wed, Jul 25, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) trial over alleged misuse of his mayoral allowance has been enveloped in controversy over accusations that Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) doctored the transcript of a witness' testimony. However, the audio recording of the deposition in question is not clear enough to be conclusive and Ma will have a hard time using it to convince a court he has been a victim of political persecution.

The disputed recording is of Hou's interview with former Taipei City Government treasurer Wu Li-ju (吳麗洳). The questions related to whether Ma's mayoral allowance was used for public expenses. Prosecutors hope to use Wu's testimony to prove that she mistakenly reimbursed Ma from the fund because she incorrectly deemed the receipts he provided to be valid and that this constitutes embezzlement on the former mayor's part.

In listening to the recording, it is apparent that although Hou frequently clarified his questions, Wu often replied with only "Hmm, hmm" or "Yes, yes." It is not clear from this response whether Wu was answering Hou's questions or indicating that she understood or simply heard them. Furthermore, both Wu and Hou cut each other off when talking, with the witness sometimes answering questions without waiting for the prosecutor to finish.

Because of the alleged discrepancies between the written and recorded deposition, Ma's lawyers accuse Hou of being biased against Ma, and having already made up his mind about the case. They have even threatened to sue Hou for forgery, malfeasance and abuse of power.

However, it is clear that Wu gave her testimony willingly and that she signed the written deposition. How could it be claimed, then, that the deposition is a forgery? The accusations by Ma's team are not tenable.

Ma's legal team has released selected parts of the recording to the media in an attempt to attack Hou. This political tactic suggests contempt for the court. As a former justice minister, Ma should know better than to attempt to manipulate public opinion and influence the judiciary in this way. His lawyers, meanwhile, may yet face disciplinary action from the National Bar Association.

Ma's lawyers have also on previous occasions suggested that prosecutors have asked leading questions, and that this is why the former mayor said during his first interview that the mayoral allowance was a public fund. In fact, after the case broke last year, Ma publicly said that the mayoral allowance was a public fund to be used for public affairs. This makes it hard for his lawyers to claim that this opinion was the result of prosecutors asking leading questions.

In the long run, the short-sighted tactics of Ma's legal team are likely to have a negative impact on his case.

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