Wed, Dec 31, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Court backflips, detains Chen Shui-bian

BEHIND BARS The former president’s office criticized the move, saying it once again highlighted the Ma Ying-jeou administration’s efforts to wage a political vendetta

BY RICH CHANG AND KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized the Taipei District Court’s decision early yesterday to again detain former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) ahead of his trial on corruption charges, saying the government should make it clear whether politics were involved in the decision.

The Taipei District Court made the announcement following a marathon 12-hour hearing on Monday.

Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) announced at 2:20am yesterday that Chen would be detained, but the court would not prohibit him from seeing visitors.

The former president, who was last detained on Nov. 12, was released on Dec. 13 following his indictment along with 13 other individuals on charges of embezzlement, corruption and money laundering.

“The court decided to detain Chen because the crimes he is allegedly involved in involve serious corruption, and the court suspected Chen might flee the country or collude with suspects and witnesses in the case if he remained free. The court decided it would be hard to prosecute Chen if he was not kept in custody,” Taipei District Court spokesman Huang Chun-min (黃俊明) told a press conference.

Responding to the court’s decision, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that the government and the judicial authorities should explain to the public why they felt it necessary to detain Chen ahead of his trial.

“The detention and handcuffing of Chen ahead of his trail may have violated the Constitution,” Tsai said.

She said the government should clear up doubts on whether the change of judges before Chen’s trial was a result of political pressure.

If the government failed to clear up those doubts, people could become uneasy about the verdict, Tsai said.

Chen’s office yesterday said his lawyers would appeal the court’s decision.

The office criticized the decision to re-detain Chen, saying it once again highlighted the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s efforts to wage judicial persecution and a political vendetta against the former president.

“The former president may not get a fair and transparent trial, but justice will be served at the courts of the Taiwanese people, human conscience and history,” a statement by the office said. “The Ma administration has made aggressive efforts to detain the former president with the sole purpose of defaming the joint effort of Taiwanese to pursue democracy and sovereignty.”

The statement denounced the Taipei District Court for violating judicial independence and depriving Chen of the right to a fair trial.

“A new dictatorial regime wearing the coat of justice is taking shape,” the statement said. “Anyone who dares to challenge the Ma administration’s unification path or the Chinese Nationalist Party’s [KMT] ruling power will find prosecutors and the courts launching a war against them, trampling on the freedom, democracy and justice Taiwanese are so proud of.”

The statement also denounced the new presiding judge, saying his argument for Chen’s custody was nothing but a show cooked up for the purpose of sending him back to prison.

With security details in place 24 hours a day, the office said it would like to know how Chen could escape, as prosecutors had claimed. Besides, it said, Chen would not abandon his wheelchair-bound wife, who is in bad health. Chen has also answered every subpoena and never showed signs of wanting to flee since he was released from custody on Dec. 12, the statement said.

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