Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday criticized the Taipei District Court’s decision to change its presiding judge in cases concerning former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
In a meeting held among the court’s presiding judges late on Thursday night, a vote decided that Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) would take over the Chen-related case from Presiding Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) because Tsai had previously handled cases concerning Chen.
Panning the move as “political intervention,” DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday said “the judiciary is doomed.”
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said that in an effort to avoid human manipulation, the courts had in recent years had to resort to using a computerized system designed to randomly select presiding judges.
“By deciding who shall be the presiding judge by a vote, we are now going backward and future judiciary trials will be filled with political elements,” he said.
At a separate setting, Chen’s defense attorney Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) yesterday said Chen was perturbed by the selection of Tsai as the presiding judge in his case.
“We do not care for how SIP [the Special Investigation Panel] is conducting itself. How can the court change the judges after the lots have already been openly cast? [By doing so,] the public confidence in the system will greatly decrease,” said Cheng, slamming the SIP for what he said was abuse of its authority.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅), on the other hand, questioned whether Tsai had the wherewithal to rule in Chen’s case.
“Over the past two years, Tsai Shou-shun has allowed [former first lady] Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) to be absent from 18 court proceedings. The case has been stalled for more than two years and wasted a lot of public resources,” Chiu said.
Chen was charged with corruption and money laundering, with prosecutors alleging he embezzled public funds and took bribes.
Thirteen other people were charged in connection with the case, including Chen’s wife, son and daughter-in-law.
Chen was taken into custody on Nov. 12 and was charged with embezzling government funds and laundering money one month later. He was released without bail on Dec. 13 pending trial.
The SIP of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday launched a new bid to detain Chen by appealing again to the Taiwan High Court against the Taipei District Court’s Dec. 18 decision to release Chen without bail.
“We appeal on the grounds that [Chen Shui-bian] could flee the country, conspire with witnesses or destroy evidence,” SIP spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) told reporters.
Cheng had criticized Thursday’s appeal and accused prosecutors of interfering with the trial procedure.
“We are going back and forth with the appeals. We hope prosecutors will stop thinking that they can only investigate cases by detaining people,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU AND FLORA WANG