The Taiwan High Court yesterday revoked for a fourth consecutive time a lower court’s decision not to detain truck driver Chang Te-cheng (張德正), who allegedly rammed his truck into the Presidential Office building last week, citing a high risk of recidivating.
The High Court also dismissed a rare request by prosecutors that it deliver a verdict on Chang’s detention case rather than repeatedly sending it back to the Taipei District Court.
Chang’s fifth detention hearing began at the district court at 7pm last night and was still ongoing at press time.
The High Court’s ruling followed the district court’s decision on Saturday night to release Chang on bail of NT$300,000 and that he be confined to his sister’s residence. It said that the relatively high amount of bail, coupled with his “poor state of health,” would be sufficient to “mentally constrain a man heavily in debt” from fleeing.
So far, the district court has held three hearings in addition to the one held on Saturday in response to prosecutors’ request to have Chang detained.
The first session on Wednesday resulted in the 41-year-old being released without bail, while the second session on Thursday saw him being released into his lawyer’s custody, also without bail. The third hearing on Friday concluded with Chang being released on NT$150,000 bail.
Chang, an air force veteran, is accused of attempted murder and obstructing the performance of public duties after he allegedly rammed a 35-tonne truck into the front entrance of the Presidential Office building on Jan. 25.
The High Court listed four reasons it remanded the case again.
First, the district court failed to investigate whether Chang harbored the intention to flee, in view of the many records of his overseas travels, and failed to evaluate the necessity of barring him from leaving the country.
Second, although Chang is charged with attempted murder, an offense that does not require compulsory detention under the law, the district court should nonetheless have detained him on the grounds that he is suspected of committing a serious crime and there is a substantial high risk the he might recommit it.
Third, the district court failed to take into consideration the chance of Chang recidivating, the potential threat he poses to society and a letter he mailed to the media in which he said he could “become a demon” after serving his time and might consider carrying explosives to the Presidential Office.
There have been cases where a man suspected of robbery and murder killed someone after being released on bail, and where a drug addict who had been released from prison on amnesty only a few days beat a college professor to death, the court said.
And fourth, raising the bail from NT$150,000 to NT$300,000 alone is not enough to prevent the defendant from attempting the same kind of assault. He should also be required to routinely report to a police station.
The High Court also cited three criminal cases in the past that involved attempts to attack the Presidential Office to back its conclusion that the district court’s decision violated the principle of fairness.
On July 7, 2003, Chiang Kao-yuan (江高源) poured gasoline on a pedestrian crossing near the Presidential Office and attempted in vain to set it on fire. He was detained on the same day.
On Aug. 28, 2003, taxi driver Hsueh Ai-min (薛愛民) attempted to drive his car carrying two bottles of gasoline into the Presidential Office building. He was arrested by military police on the spot and detained right away.