Fri, May 22, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Chen dismisses attorneys, won’t call witnesses

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday dismissed all three of his attorneys and retracted requests to call his remaining witnesses to express disillusionment with the judicial system.

At the beginning of the day, Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) asked Chen about his physical condition, to which Chen replied: “Even if I told [you], it would make no difference.”

The former president then declared that he would dismiss his attorneys and call no more witnesses.

“The illegal indictment, illegal detention and illegal trials have made me go from being hopeful to being disappointed and finally to despair for the judicial system,” he said.

Chen’s lawyer, Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), also criticized the judicial system, saying that administrative procedures had interfered with legal matters.

He said that the court’s decision to switch judges from Chou Chan-chun (周占春) to Tsai, who has ruled to keep Chen in detention, was an example of this.

When Chou presided over Chen’s case last year, he twice ruled against detaining Chen, saying that there would be no risk of Chen absconding because as a former president he was protected and escorted by special agents.

However, when Tsai took over the case, he ruled to keep the former president behind bars because he said Chen might collude with witnesses or try to abscond.

In December, judges ordered that Chou be replaced by Tsai, who would preside over four cases filed against Chen. The switch was controversial and skeptics questioned whether the decision to merge the trials was procedurally flawed or politically motivated.

Cheng also blasted the court for violating Chen’s human rights, saying that although Chen had complained of chest pains, the court only used simple medical reports from the Taipei Detention Center to evaluate his health. However, when Chen was hospitalized earlier this month, the hospital’s diagnosis showed that he had a number of illnesses that would not have been discovered if he had remained at the detention center, Cheng said.

After Chen dismissed his lawyers, Tsai asked the three attorneys to leave the courtroom and immediately called for a court-appointed lawyer, Tseng Te-rong (曾德榮), to represent Chen.

The former president told Tsai that even if the court appointed the lawyer to represent him, he would refuse to consult him.

“What meaning is there in this routine procedure [of being represented by a public defender]?” Chen said.

He asked Tseng not to visit the detention center to discuss the case with him.

After the three attorneys stepped out of the courtroom, they told reporters that they supported Chen’s decision, but would still provide legal counsel to the former president if he needs them.

“I have been a lawyer for many years, but this is the first time I have encountered a client announcing the dismissal of his attorneys in court,” Hung Kwei-san (洪貴參) said.

Chen has been detained at the Taipei Detention Center since Dec. 30 on charges including corruption, embezzlement and money laundering. He has repeatedly denied the allegations and called the trials a form of political persecution.

The court originally scheduled yesterday’s session to hear the former director of Chen’s office, Lin Teh-hsun (林德訓), answer questions on his use of the presidential “state affairs fund.”

Lin was absent from court, citing heart problems.

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