Thu, Jan 15, 2004 - Page 1 News List

President appears before prosecutors

HUALIEN INQUISITIONChen Shui-bian reported to a summons as an ordinary citizen, refusing special treatment that included a comfy chair

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN HUALIEN

President Chen Shui-bian asks reporters to make way as he leaves the Hualien District Prosecutors' Office after giving testimony yesterday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) reported to Hualien prosecutors yesterday to answer questions about a corruption case, becoming the first head of state in the country to provide such testimony.

Prosecutor Lee Tsu-chun (李子春) had summoned Chen in his investigation into alleged vote-buying by the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) candidate in last summer's Hualien County commissioner by-election, You Ying-lung (游盈隆).

In addition to the president, Lee summoned nine other people, including DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄).

You is the only defendant in the case. The others were summoned as witnesses. They all reported to the prosecutors' office on time, with the exception of DPP Culture and Information Department Director-General Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬), who asked to be excused.

More than 100 reporters and some 200 supporters gathered in front of the prosecutors' office at around 8am. The president arrived at the prosecutors' office at around 9:30am. Chen left his van about 200m from the office and decided to walk the rest of the way.

In addition to the van, there were two sedans with the president's security guards. Upon Chen's request, none of the guards accompanied him to the prosecutors' office.

The crowd included overseas Taiwanese.

Masa Fan (范政雄), a Hualien native who is now an insurance broker in Toronto, came to Hualien with his wife to show their support for Chen.

"Taiwan is like a mother to us. Chen Shui-bian is the son of Taiwan so we definitely have to support him," he said.

The closed-door interrogation began immediately after the president was identified by the clerks.

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said Chen refused any special arrangements for the appearance, including a comfortable chair provided by the prosecutors' office.

"He did not want any special privileges," Huang said. "The president insisted that he wanted to respond to the summons as an ordinary citizen. He said that he would bow to the prosecutor before the interrogation, as does everyone else."

Chen was protected only by Huang and two court guards when entering the prosecutors' office. Huang said there was room for improvement with regard to security.

"This is the first time for the president to do this. None of us is experienced in this," Huang said. "We definitely can figure out a better way to do this next time."

Chen didn't comment when he left the prosecutors' office a little after noon.

After Chen left, Lee questioned other witnesses until around 5pm.

DPP officials yesterday complained about the summons.

"The summons is ridiculous," You said. "Candidates' campaign policy has nothing to do with bribery. Prosecutors do not have the right to interfere with campaign policy."

The case began when You said during a campaign activity on July 27 that he would give a monthly NT$5,000 service allowance to the county's Aboriginal chiefs to help them with community affairs if he won the by-election.

An anonymous voter, however, reported to the prosecutors' office claiming that You's promise constituted bribery.

In his first interrogation over the case on Aug. 13, Lee summoned DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), You and DPP Department of Information and Culture Deputy Director Chen Wen-tsan (鄭文燦).

DPP Policy Research and Coordinating Committee Deputy Director Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑), after appearing before Lee, said the prosecutor had assumed that vote-buying had taken place before talking to them.

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