Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Supreme Court defends belated verdict

VOTE-BUYING The court sentenced a former Taoyuan County speaker to two years in jail for buying votes nine years ago, and said judges had worked on the case non-stop

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Supreme Court yesterday denied it had deliberately delayed reviewing a case of vote-buying in Taoyuan County and had tried to avoid publicity of its final judgement.

On Wednesday, the court sentenced former Taoyuan County Council speaker Hsu Chen-yun (許振澐) to two years in prison for buying votes in the speakership election in 1994.

But the verdict was made public only yesterday morning after reporters asked judicial officials, who did not want to be identified.

The Supreme Court held a press conference yesterday afternoon after being swamped with enquiries from reporters about the implications of the case, which had dragged on for nine years, on the current scandal in Kaohsiung City, where Speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) remains in detention on suspicion of vote-buying.

At his original trial in 1994, the Taoyuan District Court found Hsu guilty. But his appeal was not heard by the Taiwan High Court until October last year.

During this time, Hsu went to China in 1995, not returning until last May to undergo emergency kidney surgery.

Chang Hsin-hsiung (張信雄), a Supreme Court spokesman, told the press conference, "Judges have not wasted a single minute in this case. They have been working on the case non-stop. This case involved a large number of defendants and judges received an extraordinarily large volume of evidence and statements from prosecutors."

But Chang added, "I am not aware of the precise details of the process between the first trial and the appeal hearings so it is not proper for me to comment on that," Chang said. "But this bribery case was a complicated one and it was normal for judges to spend more time than usual reviewing all the details submitted by prosecutors."

Asked whether judges had deliberately kept the verdict out of the public eye to avoid highlighting judicial inefficiency at a time of public outrage about the Kaohsiung City vote-buying scandal, Chang said, "These two cases are entirely separate and unrelated to one another."

He read a copy of the verdict to reporters, saying that to win the speaker's seat in 1994, Hsu bought votes from 23 Taoyuan councilors by treating them to free domestic and foreign travel. In addition, he paid bribes of NT$30,000 to each of them.

There were 60 councilors on Taoyuan's county council in 1994.

As for the 23 former councilors, judges suspended sentencing 16 of them who had admitted their part in the scheme. Five were sentenced to six months in jail or fines of NT$900 a day.

Former councilor Chiu Chui-jing (邱垂境) was sentenced to one year and eight months because he had "been fully cooperative with Hsu," promising him his vote immediately after receiving the NT$30,000 payment.

Former councilor Lee Chen-nan (李鎮楠) was found not guilty.

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), the 16 councilors' sentences will be automatically dropped if they do not break any law within a three-year mercy period.

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