Sat, Jul 11, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Hearing attracts crowds of Chen supporters

UNFAIRLY JAILED The former president’s court-appointed lawyers argued that the reasons for keeping him behind bars had ceased to exist once the trial started

By Shelley Huang and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Huang Yung-tien, left, a supporter of former president Chen Shui-bian, raises his cuffed hands during a protest outside a Taipei court yesterday where Chen was appealing his continued detention on corruption charges. About 300 people took part in the protest. Huang was recently sentenced to five months in jail for tearing off Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi’s toupee last year.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) detention hearing yesterday attracted big crowds inside and outside the courtroom, including former Judicial Yuan vice president Cheng Chung-mo (城仲模), several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and hundreds of the former president’s supporters.

Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) scheduled yesterday’s detention hearing so prosecutors and the defense could argue whether it is necessary to keep Chen detained at the Taipei Detention Center, where he has been held since Dec. 30 on corruption charges.

The judges will make a decision on Monday. Prosecutors argued that Chen should remain in detention, citing fears that he may flee the country or collude with witnesses.

Chen’s court-appointed lawyers yesterday said that it was unnecessary to keep Chen behind bars because the reason to extend detention no longer existed.

One of the court-appointed lawyers, Tseng Te-rong (曾德榮), argued that the investigation had concluded, and so there was no need for Chen to destroy evidence or collude with witnesses.

The prosecutors’ insistence on keeping Chen behind bars with no reason may be interpreted as a way of “detaining in order to force a confession,” he said.

“The defendant’s [Chen] choice to remain silent is his judicial right. This does not hinder the litigation from continuing,” Tseng said, adding that Chen had no motive to flee the country because his family had all been barred from leaving.

In response, the prosecution argued that Chen may jump bail even if the court set the bail at a large amount, using former Far Eastern Air Transport chairman Stephen Tsui (崔湧), who jumped bail last month, as an example to state their point.

“Even though Tsui’s bail was set at NT$90 million (US$3 million), this did not stop him from fleeing the country,” prosecutor Lin Yi-chun (林怡君) said.

Prosecutors also cited witness statements that said the former president had applied for a passport, as well as expressing plans to stay overseas long-term.

After hearing this, the former president broke his silence to argue in his own defense, criticizing prosecutors for misinterpreting witness statements.

“I didn’t tell [former presidential adviser Wu Li-pei (吳澧培)] that I planned to stay overseas long-term, only that I hoped to improve Taiwan’s foreign relations after I left office,” he said.

Chen said he applied for a passport because he did not need to use a passport in the eight years that he was president, so he had to renew his expired passport after he left office.

The incident was reported by the media and publicized, and he had no intention to keep it a secret, he said.

Throughout the hearing, the former president told Tsai to “listen to his conscience.”

Since his last detention hearing on May 7, Chen has declined to speak in his defense or answer questions in protest of what he calls an unfair judicial system.

Meanwhile, several DPP legislators showed their support for the former president at the hearing. However, minor arguments broke out between bailiffs and legislators, who were angry to discover that the number of seats open to the public was limited.

“Chen’s detention has seriously harmed his judicial rights,” DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said outside the courtroom.

He said prosecutors’ use of Tsui as an example to prove their point was “ridiculous to an extreme.”

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