Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Court again refuses to seize president's `secret' documents

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei District Court yesterday declined a second request by prosecutors to seize documents allegedly relating to the president's secret diplomatic projects from the Presidential Office.

The prosecutors' first request for the documents -- which they hope to use as evidence in the "state affairs fund" case in which the first lady is a defendant -- was refused last Friday.

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 fund designed to be used by the president for emergencies.

"Now that the Presidential Office has refused to produce certain documents relating to the the six diplomatic projects, officers of the court should go to the Presidential Office and seize them," Prosecutor Lin Ta (林達) told the court.

Lin said prosecutors had not requested that the Presidential Office submit documents detailing the contents of the six diplomatic projects, but merely a list of the secret diplomatic projects from July 2002 to December last year, as well as documents that showed how the diplomatic projects had been approved and then placed under the protection of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法).

Three lots of documents had been sealed by Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) once he completed his investigation in case they contained secret diplomatic information, Lin added.

"If we do not swiftly clarify whether these documents are confidential or not and whether prosecutors, defense attorneys and presiding judges can read them or not, we will not get anywhere," Lin said.

Defense attorneys agreed that the court should clarify whether the three lots of documents were confidential or not. Attorney Richard Lee (李勝琛) said the court should be very cautious because opening the documents might violate the law.

Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) said the court would send a second letter asking the Presidential Office to hand over the documents.

The court sent a similar letter last Friday, but the Presidential Office replied on Wednesday that it was a matter for the president himself to decide.

Wu was absent from yesterday's hearing. She has been at National Taiwan University Hospital since falling ill during the court's first hearing on Dec. 15.

Prosecutor Chang Hsi-huai (張熙懷) also did not attend yesterday's hearing. Chang, who has come under fire from Democratic Progressive Party legislators over his alleged pro-China sentiment, reportedly broke down on Tuesday night and the prosecutors' office told him to take a rest.

The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office said that the accusations have left him depressed.

"More than 800 prosecutors nationwide signed a petition to show their support for Chang and their indignation at the baseless attack on him," Prosecutor Lin said during the hearing.

"Chang is sick and he needs a rest, but the really sick people are those who attacked him," Lin said.

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