The Taiwan High Court yesterday ordered the Taipei District Court to reconsider its Dec. 18 decision to release former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) pending trial on corruption and money laundering charges. Following the ruling, a hearing will be held this afternoon to decide whether or not Chen will be detained.
The high court made the order at 1:50am yesterday following an appeal filed by the Supreme Prosecutors Office’s Special Investigation Panel (SIP) on Thursday against the Taiwan District Court’s previous decision to release Chen.
High court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan (溫耀源) told reporters that the decision by the lower district court was “a violation of justice. Therefore the high court decided to retract the ruling.”
“The Taipei District Court’s ruling disregarded evidence provided by the prosecutors who warned that the defendant could collude with other suspects and flee the country,” Wen said.
In the appeal presented to the Taiwan High Court, the prosecutors said they would soon begin investigating several other corruption cases allegedly involving Chen and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), and that if he were allowed to remain free, some of the witnesses, including three of his former close aides, might withold information.
It was the second time the SIP succeeded in having the Taiwan High Court throw out the Taipei District Court’s decision. The first time was when the SIP filed an appeal with the high court on Dec. 17 in which the latter ordered the district court to reconsider the release. The district court upheld its decision in its second ruling on Dec. 18, which led to the SIP’s second appeal on Thursday.
Chen was detained on Nov. 12 and indicted on Dec. 12 on charges of embezzling government funds, money laundering and forgery related to four cases along with 13 others, including his wife, son and daughter-in-law.
Chen has repeatedly said the charges against him were politically motivated, accusing the China-friendly government of his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), of leading a witchhunt.
SIP spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) told reporters yesterday that “the SIP appreciated the high court’s ruling and prosecutors were working hard for tomorrow’s [today] hearing.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) yesterday said the fact that the high court overruled the district court’s previous decision to release Chen without bail while asking it to reconsider its decision “is a slap in the face to [Presiding] Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) because the high court rebutted every reason why Chou believed the former president should be freed.”
KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) urged the district court “to carefully assign” another judge to preside over Chen’s trials so that the public would not question the impartiality of the court.
Tsai Shou-hsun(蔡守訓)was voted to replace Presiding Judge Chou to handle Chen-related cases during a meeting held among the district court’s presiding judges on Thursday night, citing that Tsai had previously handled cases concerning Chen.
As a result, today’s hearing will be presided over by Tsai not Chou.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG AND CNA