Fri, Jan 06, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Prison term for the `rice bomber' cut by 20 months

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

The Taiwan High Court yesterday reduced a jail term for a man known as the "rice bomber" for carrying out a bombing campaign against rice imports, saying his motive was not malicious.

The Taiwan High Court said in its verdict that Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), whose explosives were attached to notes protesting the imports of foreign agricultural products, was "pitiful," and his intention behind his crimes would justify a reduction of the sentence.

His sentence was revised to five years and 10 months.

The judgment also said that the explosives produced and planted by Yang were not powerful enough to do harm to anyone, based on the assessment of experts.

Noting that his client had won the sympathy of many people who oppose globalization, Yang's lawyer Ting Jung-tsung (丁榮聰) said that he would appeal to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for a pardon after the case is closed and the sentence finalized.

Yang, a 25-year-old chicken vendor, was sentenced last year by a lower court to seven-and-a-half years in jail and a fine of NT$100,000 (US$3,100).

Yang was remanded in custody after appearing briefly at the court yesterday to listen to his reduced sentence.

Ting quoted him as saying afterward that the judgment was acceptable.

Ting appealed to the prosecutors who brought the charges against Yang to accept the judgment and not appeal.

Yang, who was arrested in November 2004 after a tip-off from his brother, was nicknamed the "rice bomber" because he sprinkled rice on his homemade explosives. No one was injured during Yang's campaign.

Yang was born to a family of farmers and had been trained to handle explosives in the military.

He was accused of planting a bomb in a Taipei park in November 2003 with a note accusing the government of threatening the survival of farmers.

Sixteen more bombs were found in parks, telephone booths and trains over the following few months. Two of the devices exploded but caused no injuries or major damage.

Yang had argued that he resorted to the campaign to attract government attention and highlight the plight of local farmers after the nation's accession to the WTO in 2002.

Some activists and farmers say that Taiwan's membership in the WTO has hurt its rice producers.

The government has slashed subsidies to the farming industry, conditionally opening rice imports and lowering tariffs on agricultural items to fulfill its obligations as a WTO member.

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