Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Councilors dodge court hearings

KAOHSIUNG SCANDAL Members of the city council are using their immunity during sessions to ignore summonses, prompting judges to think about weekend hearings

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) yesterday said that councilors facing corruption charges should not be required to spend time in court on weekends and holidays after Kaohsiung District Court Judge Lin Shui-cheng (林水城) said that he was willing to consider doing overtime to summon them.

"I am afraid that councilors may not be able to attend hearings on the weekends or holidays either, because we have been quite busy recently and we do work on the weekends as well," Chu said.

Kaohsiung prosecutors indicted 40 people on April 7 this year after a bribery scandal came to light over Chu's election as speaker. Thirty-four of the defendants are Kaohsiung City councilors. Of the 34 indicted councilors, 10 were DPP members, 10 belonged to the KMT, six were PFP councilors and eight are independents. They all became independents after being expelled by their parties.

However, ever since Lin and his fellow judges Chen Ming-chu (陳銘珠) and Fang Bai-cheng (方百正) began to hear the bribery case on April 24 this year, most of the indicted councilors began to take advantage of councilors' legal immunity during a council session and refused to attend hearings.

"In 11 hearings, I never had all of [the indicted councilors appear before me] at one time," Lin said. "Their constant absence has made it difficult to proceed."

Among the 34 indicted councilors, Tsai Chien-hsing (蔡見興), Chen Nai-ching (陳乃靜), Chu Wen-ching (朱文慶), Chiang Chen-lung (江振龍), Chang Ching-chuan (張清泉), Chien Chin-cheng (簡金城), Huang Tien-tsai (黃添財), Huang Shih-lung (黃石龍) and Lee Jung-tsung (李榮宗) have attended none of the 11 hearings.

Lin was left with no other choice than to consider holding court on the weekends.

"I understand that they are current councilors and they do have to do their jobs. However, the trial for the case needs to be completed as soon as possible, too. So I am seriously thinking about organizing weekend hearings," Lin said. "The city council is off on the weekends, isn't it?"

However, Chu's assertion that councilors have to work on the weekends is widely interpreted as a subtle refusal to appear in court.

The latest hearing was held last Friday. Lin summoned 14 councilors but only Tsai Ching-yuan (蔡慶源) reported to the court. According to Lin, the rest of the summoned councilors asked for excused absence: their attorneys said they were either sick or in a meeting.

Coincidentally, the Kaohsiung City Council began its fourth extraordinary session on the same day, which will last until next Sunday. It also means that these indicted councilors will have legal excuses not to attend the hearings when summoned during this period.

The council's regular session will begin on Aug. 14, 17 days after the end of the previous session.

"According to the council session regulations, councilors are not allowed to rest weekends during an extraordinary session," Chu said. "As a result, we cannot meet [in court] on the weekends."

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