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Sat, May 27, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Amnesty International backs retrial

HSICHIH TRIO The human rights group thinks the case demonstrates severe problems in Taiwan's justice system, and urges a fair and open trial for the three men

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Su Chun-chang, father of Su Chien-ho of the Hsihchih Trio, thanks Paul Hoffman and members of Amnesty International's executive committee, which has traveled to Taiwan to show the group's support for a retrial of the three men.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Repeating the organization's concern over doubts surrounding the Hsichih Trio case, two delegates from the headquarters of Amnesty International (AI) joined a prayer vigil for the three death row inmates at Taipei's Chinan Church yesterday.

Paul Hoffman and Pierre Robert, both members of AI's international executive committee, arrived in Taiwan for a six-day visit on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference at the church, Robert spelled out his hopes that a fair retrial would be granted soon in the controversial case, in which Su Chien-ho (蘇建和), Liu Bin-lang (劉秉郎), and Chuang Lin-hsiun (莊林勳) were convicted and sentenced to death for a 1991 double murder on dubious evidence.

"I think it's quite symbolic that at this time, nine years after the case first appeared, when there is a new government with a very strong commitment to human rights, the case of Su Chien-ho and his co-defendants remains something that has to be solved," Robert said. "We're hoping finally to have a retrial [in the case] under conditions that are fair and in accordance with international standards."

With doubts over the fairness of the trio's conviction and the death penalties imposed on them, AI has paid great attention to the Hsichih Trio case.

In 1995 and 1996, the human rights organization issued a series of international appeals on behalf of the three men, and requested that international supporters of the campaign send appeal letters to former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) asking him to use his constitutional powers to commute the death sentences on the three men.

In 1998, AI published a report, "Death sentences based on unfair convictions: three men face execution," which called for a full and impartial investigation into the convictions of the Hsichih Trio and for the death penalties to be commuted. And Pierre Sane, chairman of AI's London Headquarters, wrote a letter to former president Lee in July last year to highlight the consequences of the perceived injustices in the case.

Asked how the case might affect Taiwan's human rights assessments, Roberts indicated it is illustrative of two major setbacks in the country's human rights situation.

"I think the case of Su and the two others is illustrative of a failure in the judicial process to provide these criminal suspects' their right to a fair trial, and it's also illustrative of why Amnesty thinks the death penalty should not exist," he said.

Having thrown out four special appeals and several requests for a retrial, Taiwan's judiciary finally granted a retrial in the case of the three death-row inmates on May 19th. The decision has excited human rights activists, and the trio themselves.

However, the prosecutor for the high court appealed against the retrial this week, which may lead to a prolonged resolution of the case.

Hoffman, who is an attorney in California, expressed regret about the prosecutor's filing of the appeal, and called on the prosecutor not to pursue this strategy and let the retrial proceed.

In efforts to promote the organization's worldwide campaign, the two AI delegates also tried to convince Taiwan's new Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) of the wisdom of abolishing the death penalty during a meeting yesterday.

Chen, by citing results of past surveys of public opinion on abolishment of the death penalty, suggested that at this point, Taiwan's general public prefers to retain capital punishment. He also noted that the government has to make sure that alternatives to capital punishment are available before abolishing the death penalty.

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