Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Ruling in Ma case a sad day for judiciary

By Taiwan Societyies, Taiwan Hakka Society, Taiwan Herald Society, Taiwan Association of University Professors 台灣北、南、東、中、客家、角社、台灣教授協會

We want to express our deep disappointment with the verdict of the Taipei District Court in former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) corruption case.

The court found Ma, who is also the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) presidential candidate, not guilty of embezzling funds from his special mayoral allowance.

When Ma was first accused of using his special mayoral allowance for his own expenses, he repeatedly asserted to the Taipei City Council and the press that he had only used his special allowance for public affairs and charities.

After prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) carried out a thorough investigation of the evidence, it was revealed that Ma had used public funds for his private spending and even household expenses and that a subordinate had falsified receipts.

When this became known, Ma changed his tune and flatly lied, claiming he had never said the special allowance was only for public affairs.

He also said that his answers as recorded in the transcript of his indictment were the result of leading questions or the prosecutor intentionally twisting Ma's statements out of context.

It's not unusual for people to lie when caught red-handed. Ma, however, has lied about his special mayoral allowance in the capacity of Taipei mayor, KMT chairman and KMT presidential candidate. It is despicable to see a politician behave this way. He obviously has no scruples about deceiving the public.

What is so disappointing is that the court accepted Ma's claims and disregarded certain evidence that may have incriminated him, such as electronic documents, and handed down a ruling without first hearing the whole story.

In addition, the court adopted the charges made by Ma and his lawyers against the prosecutor. In the verdict, the court reprimanded Hou, saying the transcript was not true to what had been said, that he had taken statements out of context, that he had violated the Criminal Procedure Law (刑事訴訟法) and that evidence was insufficient.

As to the nature of the special allowance, despite stricter interpretations by other government institutions, the court adopted the loosest possible standard, calling the special allowance a "substantial subsidy."

The court has not done its job, and the public is now doubting whether our judicial system is capable of looking at things objectively and professionally to uphold the law.

Nevertheless, we still have faith in the court system and respect it. The judicial system is the last line of defense for justice, but we still want to make an earnest appeal: Fairness and independence are the basis of this line of defense.

The courts should objectively consider all the facts. The judiciary shoulders a heavy responsibility as an arbitrator that must be just and ignore political pressure.

The judiciary must be unbiased and have no double standards. It has to be a balancing force.

A verdict too far removed from public opinion or one that goes flagrantly against public expectations makes it impossible for the judiciary to be a buffer between the two opposing sides, instead turning it into a tool that exacerbates the problem and pulling the judiciary down with it.

We urge the prosecutor to immediately file an appeal. The High Court must offer a detailed explanation and legal interpretation in its verdict to assure the public that it is fair.

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