Wed, Jan 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors open `state affairs' files

LEGAL WRANGLE Although Taipei prosecutors peeked into the files related to the president's `state affairs fund,' his defense attorneys did not seem interested

By Ko Shu-ling and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Taipei District Court yesterday morning opened documents related to secret diplomatic missions in the "state affairs fund" case after the president failed to produce information supporting his claim that the documents should be protected by legislation on classified information.

Prosecutor Chang Hsi-huai (張熙懷) and other prosecutors involved in the case yesterday read the documents, but no defense attorneys appeared at the court, nor did they ask to see the file.

Court spokesman Liu Shou-sung (劉壽嵩) said the court ruled that the files could not be considered secret, as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the Presidential Office had failed to produce documents proving that the files fall under the protection of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法).

Chang urged defense attorneys to read the documents as soon as possible.

"Lawyers are entitled to read the documents at the court. They might very well find information that aids their clients' case in the documents," he said.

Three sets of documents were sealed by Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) after he completed his investigation into the president's use of the "fund."

Eric Chen said yesterday that he had sealed the documents to prevent the release of sensitive information, although he added that he did not consider the documents to be under the protection of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act.

Defense lawyers yesterday called on the president to seek a ruling on the matter from the Council of Grand Justices before the court meets again on Feb. 2 to determine whether the "state affairs fund" case should continue.

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said that the president would "seriously" consider the lawyers' proposal, as it seemed a good way to resolve the constitutional dispute between the court and the Presidential Office.

However, it would take some time to map out a plan, as seeking a constitutional interpretation would be a "huge project," he said.

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), one of first lady Wu Shu-jen's (吳淑珍) defense lawyers in the case, told a press conference late yesterday afternoon that members of her legal team considered the president to be the only individual entitled to file the request, because he is duty-bound to protect the constitutional order and national security.

Koo said the legal team would not ask to review the documents unless the dispute is settled.

"The purpose is to safeguard the presidency rather than his career, and he should not be put off by the possibility of criticism that the move is a scheme aimed at prolonging the court proceedings," he said.

Koo added that the president might want to ask the council to decide whether it was constitutional for Eric Chen to have questioned him and to have listed him as an accomplice in the indictment.

The Democratic Progressive Party caucus has lodged a request with the council to rule on the constitutionality of Eric Chen's questioning of the president, but the council has not decided whether to take up the case.

Attorney Yang Feng-wan (楊芳婉) said that they would like to see the Council of Grand Justices take a stance on where the line between judicial and presidential power should be drawn.

Attorney Richard Lee (李勝琛) said that the president's "state secrets privilege" was regulated by the Constitution rather than the Classified National Security Information Protection Act, which he said gives the president the right to refuse the court's request that he surrender documents which concern state secrets.

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