Sat, Dec 28, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Chu An-hsiung to face hearing in early January

WHEELS OF JUSTICE The newly elected city council speaker is set to appear before the court on Jan. 10, but the date may make little difference as the public official is immune from prosecution

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Kaohsiung District Court said late on Thursday night that the first pre-trial hearing concerning two-year-old charges of forgery and breach of trust against Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) will be held on Jan. 10.

But the announcement will make little difference to Chu, who, having been re-elected to the city council on Dec. 7, will continue to enjoy the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by all elected officials from city and county councilors upward.

Chu, the 58-year-old independent Kaohsiung city councilor was elected to his fifth term in the municipal elections. He was then elected to the speakership of the council on Wednesday with 25 of the 44 city councilors' votes.

Chu and his wife Wu Te-mei (吳德美) were indicted on charges of forgery and breach of trust in 2000.

The couple allegedly withdrew NT$22.7 billion from the An Feng Group (安峰集團), of which Chu was president, pocketing the money for private purposes. In addition to indicting the couple, Kaohsiung prosecutors demanded a seven-year prison sentence for each of them.

Following Chu's election to the city's speakership on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) complained that judges are delaying cases with the result that indicted suspects are not appropriately and promptly punished.

He accused the district court of inaction over Chu's two-year-old indictment and said that his hands were tied.

"In Chu's case, even though we have evidence against him, we can't do anything as he can't be prosecuted for at least the next four years," Chen said.

But Kaohsiung District Court spokesman Lin Shui-cheng (林水城) countered with a press conference on Thursday night, displaying an array of interrogation records, evidence and witness statements submitted by prosecutors, to explain the court's delay.

"Look at all this and you will realize why it takes such a long time," Lin said. "We have actually been doing a lot and have not been idle. Since Chu's case involves a huge amount of money and is very complicated, we want to be careful and accurate with the details provided by prosecutors so that we can produce a truly just verdict. That takes time."

But Lin also announced the Jan. 10 pre-trial hearing at the Thursday night press conference.

Lin's remarks were endorsed by Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) yesterday at the body's year-end press conference.

"It is our hope that some day people will have so much trust in the verdicts of district courts that they won't wish to appeal. To achieve that goal, district court judges have to be more careful and accurate about every decision they make. That is also one of the goals of judicial reform," Weng said.

Chu was indicted on Dec. 16 on a separate and unrelated charge of bribery, with prosecutors alleging that he paid NT$500 to each voter during the recent city council election. Prosecutors are seeking a jail term for Chu of two years and four months. Lin did not comment on when the first pre-trial hearing on these charges will be held.

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