Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

DPP wants ruling on Chen's evidence

STATE FUND CASE Caucus whip Ker Chien-ming said the party wanted to resolve the president's status in the Constitution and the prosecutors' right to question him

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said yesterday that it would submit a request for a constitutional interpretation to the Council of Grand Justices today regarding the legality of prosecutorial questioning of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) over the special "state affairs fund" case.

The announcement came two days before the opening of the trial of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and three top presidential aides on forgery and corruption charges.

The caucus said it would also file a petition today with the grand justices to suspend the trials.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told reporters yesterday that a survey of the caucus showed that the majority supported the proposal and the petition and only four legislators disagreed.

Ker said he did not raise the proposal before last Saturday's elections because "the timing was not right."

The caucus had thought of applying for a constitutional ruling on prosecutors questioning Chen after Wu and the three aides were indicted early last month, but did not take action, he said.

Prosecutors said they had enough evidence to indict Chen as well, but could not while he was in office.

Through its petitions, the caucus hoped to resolve problems with the "national mechanism" and "the president's status under the Constitution," since the president represents the nation, Ker said.

"If the president has to be questioned and investigated whenever anyone sues him, I don't think this country can function well," he said.

The proposal and petition would not prevent the trials from opening because the grand justices usually meet on Wednesday.

But if the grand justices approve the DPP's petition next Wednesday, the trials would be suspended until the council issues its constitutional interpretation, according to the Law of Interpretation Procedure For Grand Justices (司法院大法官審理案件法).

If the grand justices rule the prosecutors' questioning of Chen is unconstitutional, any information that the prosecutors gathered from the interrogation could not be used as evidence in court.

Prosecutors would then have to find new evidence to be able to continue the trials of Wu and the three aides.

In order to file their proposal and petition, the law requires the caucus to obtain the signatures of one-third of the 219 members of the legislature. The DPP has 84 legislators.

DPP Legislator Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) said he would not endorse the proposal and the petition because it would be "inappropriate" to initiate them.

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus whip Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙) said he had not known about the DPP's plans before Kerr's announcement. He said the caucus would discuss whether to help the DPP during its meeting tomorrow.

Pan-blue lawmakers were strongly opposed to the DPP's plan.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said the move would create an obstacle for prosecutors.

"Given that the president and the first lady have already been questioned by prosecutors in the state affairs fund case, filing a request for a constitutional interpretation would just be the DPP's scheme to delay further investigation," Tsai said.

People First Party Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said Ker had proposed the idea to curry favor with Chen.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) refused to comment on the DPP's plan.

Meanwhile, Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) said he had suggested that Chen not appear in court to give testimony and that the president had said he would not go.

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