The Kaohsiung City Council's secretariat yesterday said that it does not have the authority to ask those councilors indicted in last year's city council speakership election bribery case not to take advantage of their judicial immunity, even though the Kaohsiung District Court has issued an official notice to urge these councilors not to do so.
The court's notice was issued to avoid the possibility that the indicted councilors might attempt to avoid summons to the hearings by organizing an extraordinary session of the council after the current session ends on June 6 or fleeing the country.
"Councilors will decide to organize an extraordinary session whenever necessary. In addition, we, as an administrative office to the council, do not have the authority to ask councilors not to go abroad under any circumstances," said council Secretary-General Hsu Lung-sheng (徐隆盛).
Hsu said that an extraordinary session could be held under three circumstances: if the speaker requests so, if one-third of the councilors vote to do so or if the mayor requires so.
According to the Constitution, city councilors enjoy judicial immunity during council sessions, which gives these indicted councilors a legal excuse not to report to summons of hearings.
In addition, as of press time yesterday, the district court has not issued any travel ban against any of the indicted councilors.
According to Kaohsiung District Court Presiding Judge Lin Shui-cheng (林水城), who is also the chief judge in the first instance of the case, the court issued an official notice to the city council on May 9.
Lin said in the notice that judges do not hope to see the indicted councilors take the advantage of their judicial immunity during a council session.
"The current session will end on June 6 and we hope to finish this case within six months. As a result, we strongly suggested that they [the indicted councilors] not avoid summons by organizing another extraordinary session after June 6 or going on international trips regardless of purpose," Lin said.
On April 7, Kaohsiung prosecutors indicted 40 people in the case and 34 of the defendants are Kaohsiung City councilors.
After the indictment, these indicted councilors became independent because their political parties immediately decided to expel them. However, none has resigned from the council because of the scandal.