Following a total of five Taipei District Court hearings — four of which were on the Taiwan High Court’s remand — the fifth appeal by prosecutors to detain truck driver Chang Te-cheng (張德正), who allegedly rammed his truck into the Presidential Office Building on Jan. 25, was rejected by the High Court yesterday afternoon.
The High Court has ruled that Chang’s detention is unnecessary, agreeing with the Taipei District Court’s decision on Sunday night.
However, the High Court’s final decision did not come easily.
It returned the district court’s rulings to that court four times before rejecting the fifth appeal made by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office after the district court again ruled on Sunday night to have Chang released on NT$300,000 bail.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office appealed Sunday’s ruling, and it also requested for the second time that the High Court deliver its own verdict on Chang’s detention rather than send the case back to the lower court “to avoid wasting judicial resources.”
The prosecutors’ first request was dismissed by the High Court.
In its fifth ruling on Sunday, the district court agreed with the prosecutors that Chang, accused of attempted murder, along with other offenses, might attempt to flee, but it said that there is no “necessity” to keep him in custody.
The district court said the accused has turned up for each court session, adding that house arrest and other measures are enough to ensure he appears for trial.
The High Court concurred with that opinion.
The district court dismissed prosecutors’ arguments that past cases involving attacks on the Presidential Office Building had set a precedent for detaining suspects without bail, saying that the decision on whether to detain a suspect is to be made case by case.
“It is not true that committing crimes against the Presidential Office Building alone necessitates detention,” the Taipei District Court said.
The lower court also said that it understands that the accused, as the prosecutors have said, has caused great damage to social order, but “on the grounds of the personal freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and the presumption of innocence,” detention is to be ordered only as a final resort.
In the statement by the High Court yesterday, it supported the lower court’s position that pacifying the public or satisfying some people’s demand for retribution should not guide the court’s adjudication.
Before the High Court ruled in favor of the District court’s ruling, the Judicial Reform Foundation held a press conference in front of the High Court building, calling the back-and-forth the “New Year’s judicial farce” and accusing the High Court of harboring an authoritarian mentality.
The foundation said it was obvious that the High Court judges believed Chang should be detained after its unremitting attempts to revoke the district court’s rulings, “yet it did not dare to bear the responsibility and deliver a verdict itself.”
Foundation director Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) said the High Court was using detention as a political tool, saying it saw “any possibility for the suspect to again harass the Presidential Office Building as the necessity for a detention,” an authoritarian mentality that takes laws to be the ruler’s tools and tries to placate social anger by detaining suspects before trial begins.