Special prosecutors yesterday indicted former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for illegally seizing confidential government documents, the latest in a series of charges facing Chen, who is already serving a jail sentence for corruption.
Chen was indicted on the charge of violating the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法), Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) members said.
However, because Chen never released any of the documents to the public, prosecutors recommended that the court give the former president a relatively light sentence proportionate to the crime.
According to the indictment, Chen ordered close aides to pack and transport important documents from national security agencies, the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his personal office in Taipei after the March presidential election in 2008, when Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party was voted out of power.
Prosecutors said that after searches, inspectors discovered the former president had taken more than 17,000 documents, 3,419 of which were classified.
SID inspectors questioned people linked to the case 43 times and Chen himself at Taipei Prison, where he has been serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence since late 2010.
While Chen told prosecutors he did not know how his aides handled the documents and that as president he had the right to destroy them, prosecutors said in the indictment it was against the law for him not to return the documents after leaving office on May 20, 2008.
The prosecutors alleged that Chen kept the documents for several reasons — to help him write a planned memoir and prepare for lawsuits in which he was involved and to collect evidence against other politicians.
The former president’s office yesterday afternoon called the indictment ridiculous and unfounded, adding that the fact that it was made one day after President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration raised serious questions about the SID’s motives. Chen’s office denied having done anything illegal and called for the abolishment of the SID, saying it was unworthy of the public.
Chen’s attorney, Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), described the indictment as “political suppression.”
Cheng said the SID should be cracking down on irregularities involving incumbent government officials rather than on the former president, citing problems related to the production of an expensive musical, called Dreamers (夢想家), for the Republic of China centennial celebration last year, as well as the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo.
Cheng also said that because the office of a former president is also defined as a public institution, Chen’s action could simply be described as moving the files from one public institution to another.
“It does not involve illegal conduct or corruption,” he said.
Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang