Mon, Apr 22, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Court keeps legislator in Taiwan

NICE TRY The country's only politician ever to win elected office from a prison cell, the Taiwan High Court has decided Yen Ching-piao's travel-ban will stand

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld a travel ban on independent legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), after he sought a waiver to join other lawmakers on a trip to the US and Central America on May 3.

Yen was also looking to attend the inauguration of Costa Rican president on May 8.

The travel ban is a result of the court's decision on Jan. 2 to convict Yen for corruption, attempted murder, possession of illegal firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice. His conviction and sentencing to 11 years and six months in prison is currently on appeal with the Taiwan Supreme Court.

At the time, he was banned from leaving the country and released on NT$5 million bail.

Independent lawmakers voted Yen into the legislative group that is to make the trip.

Under the travel ban, Yen is not allowed to leave the country and must report to the court whenever summoned to do so.

"I really appreciated the chance to represent my country and really wanted to go. However, I will abide by the court's decision to keep me grounded," said Yen.

Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that he would negotiate with Judicial Yuan officials and see if they will suspend Yen's travel ban.

"Yen was officially selected as a representative by the legislature," said Wang. "He is representing this country -- not joining a common tour with his colleagues. It's different."

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Katharine Chang (張小月), Wang is to be President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) personal envoy and will attend the presidential inauguration of Costa Rica's President-elect Abel Pacheco on May 8.

Yen was the first politician in Taiwan's political history to run and win a campaign from behind bars. Despite the criminal charges facing him, roughly 34,000 Taichung County voters cast their ballots for him in last year's legislative polls.

The court found that Yen and two other defendants spent millions of dollars of taxpayers' money between 1998 and 2000 to cover their expenditures at hostess bars and KTV lounges.

It was found that the trio, who had patronized such establishments every two or three days, had spent a total of over NT$30 million from the council's budget and still owed some NT$10 million in unpaid bills to various hostess bars.

In a government crackdown on organized crime in 1986, Yen spent three and a half years in Green Island's maximum-security prison. His participation in local politics began soon after he was released.

Under the attempted murder charge, the court found Yen guilty of masterminding the 1996 shooting of a man believed to have tried to blackmail him via telephone calls.

It was found that in July 1996, Yen had organized his cronies to find a scapegoat to take the rap for his brother, who was wanted for his involvement in another shooting.

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