Court turns down appeal against Chen’s detention

COURT’S U-TURN: Chen Shui-bian’s lawyers said they would not give up because they have identified ‘flaws’ in the procedure. Next stop? The Grand Justices

By Jimmy Chuang, Ko Shu-ling and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 1

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday would file for a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices after the Taiwan High Court turned down an appeal against his detention.

In addition to declining the appeal, the high court ruled that no further appeals over his detention — by Chen or prosecutors — would be allowed.

Taiwan High Court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan (溫耀源) said judges turned down Chen’s appeal because they accepted the prosecutors’ argument that his release would undermine the progress of the case and pose a threat to defendants and witnesses.

“Under these circumstances, we cannot release him on bail,” Wen said.

Three high court judges spent more than 24 hours considering Tuesday’s appeal.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), Chen may be detained for up to six months, at which point he would either be released or begin his sentences, if any.

“We will not give up, because we see flaws in the procedure,” said Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), Chen’s lawyer.

Cheng called it “illegal” and “unconstitutional, adding that changing the presiding judge was wrong.

“It seems Taiwanese courts usually do a U-turn when they handle cases concerning politicians,” he said.

Cheng accused the judiciary of violating due process and compromising the credibility of the judiciary. He also lambasted the judges’ handling of the case and the Special Investigation Panel for “stealthily substituting” the interview records of other witnesses and quoting their interviews out of context.

In addition to the appeal, Chen’s lawyer had requested that the presiding judge of the Chen case be removed to avoid what he called a conflict of interest. The request, however, was also rejected.

As Chen’s lawyers seem to have exhausted all standard means available to appeal againt his detention, they are now turning to the Council of Grand Justices. Chen’s lawyers yesterday said they planned to file the request after the Lunar New Year.

Another tactic available is to exercise Chen’s right of silence in the court to stage a protest, a member of his legal team said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), who visited the former president along with DPP Taipei chapter director Huang Ching-lin (黃慶林) at the Taipei Detention Center yesterday, described the court ruling as “political persecution.”

Chen Chieh-ju said Chen Shui-bian remained hopeful and that he would make every effort to defend his rights, including via a constitutional interpretation.

The former president is readying to publish a book before the Lunar New Year, she said. The tentative title of the book is The Cross of Taiwan. It will contain his writings during his time at the Taipei Detention Center late last year, she said.

Another of Chen Shui-bian’s defense lawyers, Cheng Sheng-chu (鄭勝助), who also visited the former president, said he informed his client of the court’s decision and that the former president accepted it reluctantly.

Cheng Sheng-chu dismissed speculation that the former president felt lost after learning of the verdict, saying it was quite clear “they have an iron cage there waiting for him.”

Meanwhile, following the Taipei District Court’s rejection on Tuesday of the appeal by Chen’s lawyer to have the presiding judge in Chen’s case removed to avoid what they called a conflict of interest, the lawyers yesterday said they would apply again.

In related news, former DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday rebutted a report claiming that he had received political donations from former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控) vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and that he had asked Koo not to return to Taiwan to face a criminal investigation.

The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported yesterday that Koo had proposed he would return to Taiwan last January, but that then premier Su had sent Koo a message via contacts asking him not to return to the country, as he would risk being detained.

The report said Su received political donations from Koo on the two occasions he ran for Taipei County commissioner, in 1997 and 2001.

Su said in a press statement yesterday that the media report was fabricated. He left the position of premier in May 2007, but the report said he was premier last February, which proved it was entirely wrong.

Su said he had never received political donations from Koo.

Koo was released on NT$100 million (US$3 million) bail following his return to Taiwan in November after two years on the run.

Koo had been in Japan since evading an arrest warrant issued in 2006 after he failed to answer a subpoena to appear in court over allegations of irregularities involving Chinatrust’s bid for rival Mega Financial Holding Co (兆豐金控).

Prosecutors also suspected Koo offered Chen Shui-bian a bribe related to the failed takeover bid.