Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Bribe-taking councilors skip court -- as usual

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF WRITER

The Kaohsiung District Court summoned 21 indicted city councilors to appear in court yesterday on charges relating to bribery in the Kaohsiung City Council speakership election last December but only six of them showed up.

On July 29, the court wrapped up part of the case and came up with sentences ranging from four months to 18 months in jail for five defendants, including four city councilors and one lawmaker. A second trial was scheduled to open on Aug. 28.

According to Kaohsiung District Court Presiding Judge Lin Shui-cheng's (林水城) plan, yesterday's hearing was supposed to be the last court hearing before the second trial. It was also the last chance for indicted councilors to defend themselves before judges come up with a verdict.

However, in the wake of the defendants' absence yesterday the final hearing and the trial have been rescheduled.

During yesterday's hearing all but two of the indicted councilors admitted to the crimes they were charged with.

The indicted councilors had a diverse range of excuses ready when asked about their court no-shows.

Chen Nai-ching (陳乃靜) said that he had to be absent from court because, for him, serving the people came first.

"Today's [council] meeting is to review Mayor Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) policies and question him where necessary," Chen said. "As a result, my own personal matters have to wait."

Tong Yen-chen (童燕珍) complained that she had been mistreated by law enforcement officers during the investigation.

"They did not carry out their investigation by the book," she said. "I was mistreated."

She refused, however, to defend herself in court, but failed to explain why.

Ever since the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office indicted 40 people on April 7, including 34 city councilors, over the offering and taking of bribes in the speakership elections the Kaohsiung District Court has scheduled court hearings every Thursday, but judges have never had all the defendants together at one time. Chen Nai-ching, for example, has never attended any of the hearings.

Li said that none of the absent indictees would be arrested because they all had legal excuses to be absent. However, their constant absence would prolong the entire trial.

"Everybody hopes to wrap up this case as soon as possible," Lin said. "However, we really cannot do anything when these indicted councilors always have legal excuses to miss our hearings."

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