Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Court upholds ruling against Lee

DEFAMATION The TSU said Lee Teng-hui would appeal after the Taiwan High Court ruled that he should pay compensation to James Soong for comments he made

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) must pay People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) NT$2 million (US$61,000) for insinuating that Soong had abandoned pan-blue supporters after an April 10, 2004 demonstration against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and returned home to play mahjong, the Taiwan High Court ruled yesterday.

"Former president Lee did not verify the allegation of Soong playing mahjong on April 10, but made the allegation before the public. The court considers Lee's claims against Soong to have defamed him," Taiwan High Court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan (溫耀源) told the press yesterday.

Appeal planned

Ho Min-hao (何敏豪), executive director of the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) policy committee, yesterday said that Lee, who the party regards as its spiritual leader, would appeal the suit.

The ruling is not helpful toward safeguarding freedom of expression, Ho added.

The PFP yesterday said it was gratified by the court ruling.

"Chairman Soong respects the ruling and believes that the justice system will clarify the issue," PFP spokesman Hsieh Kung-pin (謝公秉) said.

In addition to the NT$2 million compensation, the ruling said that Lee must publish notices of apology on the front pages of three Chinese-language newspapers -- the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) the China Times, and the United Daily News.

Earlier ruling

The Taipei District Court last November ruled that Lee must pay NT$10 million for slander, and publish notices of apology in nine Chinese-language newspapers three days in a row.

The PFP filed a libel suit against Lee in May 2004, alleging that he had slandered Soong.

Lee said in a speech on April 24, 2004 that the "defeated candidates in the presidential election who stirred up demonstrators in front of the Presidential Office left their supporters out on the streets and went back home to sleep, or even worse, to play mahjong."

The PFP had sought NT$20 million in compensation from Lee.

"Lee's remarks did not target a specific figure and did not involve libel. This should be his basic freedom of speech," said Ho, adding that "the ruling would not help the country enhance the protection of freedom of speech."

During the trial, judges from the high court encouraged both sides to settle the suit out of court, but the two parties failed to make a deal.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih

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