A frail former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in a pretrial hearing held at a Taipei court.
“I am not guilty because I have not committed any crimes,” he told a panel of three judges at the Taipei District Court, when asked whether he admitted to charges of embezzling and accepting bribes.
Chen is charged with pocketing some NT$1.5 billion (US$44 million), including a bribe of US$9 million in a land deal and money from his presidential “state affairs fund.” He is also charged with money laundering, forgery and influence peddling.
Yesterday’s hearing concerned the embezzlement and bribery charges.
Chen, brought to court in handcuffs from the Taipei Detention Center, told the court that testimony against him by several witnesses had been tampered with and demanded it be thrown out.
He also questioned the impartiality of Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) and three prosecutors involved in the case.
“I always respected the judicial system but I can’t trust it any more. Prosecutors have stooped so low as to become political tools ... some intervened in political and partisan affairs,” he told the judges.
“Nobody can trust the way prosecutors conduct their interrogations as they seem biased or have a personal agenda,” he said, referring to testimony concerning the land deal.
Chen said if the judicial system were neutral, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) would be questioned for alleged wrongdoings.
Chen said Special Investigation Panel (SIP) Prosecutor Chu Chao-liang (朱朝亮) told him and his wife during a raid on Aug. 16 that he had information indicating that Lee and the Taiwan Solidarity Union had received a donation of between NT$200 million and NT$300 million from the Chinese Communist Party.
Lee also allegedly laundered money through dummy accounts, Chen said, but the SIP decided not to investigate. He did not elaborate.
Chen also said that SIP Prosecutor Wu Wen-chung (吳文忠) had prevented a scandal involving an alleged DVD recording of Ma and former radio DJ Charles Mack having intimate relations.
Mack, a US citizen, was repatriated on Feb. 6, 2004, after law enforcement officers claimed that he had intimate relations after being diagnosed with syphilis and had not told his partners.
Mack had been married to Chang Wei-chin (張瑋津), who claimed she was a good friend of Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍).
Chen said Chang had a DVD of Mack and Ma having intimate relations and intended to use the DVD to ruin Ma’s presidential prospects last year. Wu Wen-chung used his position as a prosecutor to stop Chang, Chen said.
The court ordered a short recess when a feeble-looking Chen, who had stopped eating for four days ahead of the trial, said he was feeling unwell.
Chen’s lawyers told reporters before the court session that they suspected prosecutors of tampering with testimony and threatened to sue those involved for encouraging perjury and abuse of authority.
The lawyers said they would also apply to the High Court later yesterday for Chen’s case to be moved to another court to ensure a fair hearing.
Two Chen supporters who managed to obtain court passes to yesterday’s hearing shouted “injustice” and “Long live Chen Shui-bian” in the middle of the proceedings before being expelled by the court.