Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Defense, prosecutor trade criticisms

`STATE AFFAIRS FUND' Wellington Koo and other defense attorneys complained that they had not been given enough time to review the evidence against their clients

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei prosecutors, led by Chief Prosecutor Chang Hsi-huai (張熙懷) and defense attorneys, led by Wellington Koo (顧立雄) had a remarkable courtroom debate yesterday during the second hearing in the "state affairs fund" case involving the first lady.

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and three former Presidential Office aides -- deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成), secretariat director Lin Te-hsun (林德訓) and treasurer Chen Cheng-hui (陳鎮慧) -- were indicted on charges of corruption for allegedly embezzling NT$14.8 million (US$449,600) from the "state affairs fund," a special allowance designed to be used by the president for emergencies.

A report from Wu's doctors was presented to the judges at the beginning of yesterday's hearing when Wu's defense team asked that her absence from the hearing be excused.

Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) immediately granted the request, at which point Chang stood up, bowed and said, "I sincerely wish her well and hope that she will recover soon."

When Tsai began to review the evidence and the indictments with the defendants and their attorneys, the defense teams complained about the material.

They complained that they had not had enough time to review all the evidence and the indictments because the prosecutors did not submit the documents to the judges in a timely manner.

"Prosecutors are supposed to submit all the evidence, indictments and necessary documents to the court as early as possible so the defense counsels will have enough time to go through and review them," Koo said.

"They [the prosecutors] submitted them [the material] piece by piece. Your honor asked us not to review them before Dec. 1. We hardly had a chance to go through them in detail. Is that fair to us? I do not think so," defense counsel Richard Lee (李勝琛) said, echoing Koo's comments.

The attorneys also complained that the prosecutors had not done their job because their evidence was not clearly linked to the charges against the defendants.

"Prosecutors only listed all the evidence they collected, but they did not explain the connections between the evidence and the charges against my clients. I think they did not do their job," Lee said.

Chang was upset by the complaints about the prosecutors' work and stood up to rebut them immediately.

"This is the clearest and most well-organized indictment and evidence list I have ever done. If it still confuses you guys, I will accept the criticism and make improvements in the future. But I question whether you really tried to review them, since I submitted them as early as possible," he said. "I have never tried to delay the process or anything."

The defense attorneys also said that they were sorry that their request that the case be suspended was rejected.

They had filed the request during the first hearing last week on the grounds the case was unconstitutional because Article 52 of the Constitution states that the president cannot be investigated or indicted unless he has betrayed the country.

"I can only say that I am sorry for this. They [judges] did not even give us a chance to file a request for interpretation of that article with the Council of Grand Justices," Koo said.

The third hearing has been scheduled for 9:30am next Friday.

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