Wed, Apr 28, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Lawyers for Lu, magazine argue High Court verdict

GROUNDS FOR APPEAL The Civil Department of the Supreme Court held a debate so the attorneys could try to persuade the judges of the merit of their arguments

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawyers for Vice President Annette Lu have a brief discussion yesterday before the start of a debate over her libel suit against The Journalist magazine. The debate was held by the Supreme Court's Civil Department.

PHOTO: TAIPEI NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER ASSOCIATION

Attorneys for The Journalist magazine yesterday tried to persuade Supreme Court judges that the Constitution covers both criminal and civil cases, while Vice Presi-dent Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) lawyers insisted that the magazine should compensate Lu because the story at the center of the case had seriously damaged her reputation.

To decide whether the verdict of the libel suit brought by Lu against The Journalist should be upheld or the Taiwan High Court should rehear it, the Supreme Court's Civil Department yesterday held a debate for the two sides' lawyers to defend their arguments and try to persuade five Supreme Court Judges -- Lin Chi-fu (林奇福), Lee Yen-wen (李彥文), Chen Kuo-chen (陳國禎), Liu Yen-tsun (劉延村) and Chen Chung-yu (陳重瑜) -- to ask the high court to rehear the case.

Lu sued the magazine for publishing a story in November 2000 that said she had called its editor-in-chief to spread a rumor that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was having an affair with one of his aides.

The judges did not summon Lu or any of the defendants, but the magazine's president, Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯), decided to attend and was given permission by the court to do so.

Lu's five attorneys are all familiar faces who have frequently defended the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its members, including Wellington Koo (顧立雄), Hung Kwei-san (洪貴參).

Koo and Hung are also repre-senting the DPP in the lawsuit brought by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party alliance requesting a recount of the March 20 election ballots.

The Journalist was represented by Lo Ming-tung (羅明通) and three colleagues.

Lo said that Articles 11 and 22 of the Constitution should cover the case and that was why the magazine decided to appeal the verdict.

Article 11 states, "The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication."

Article 22 says, "All other freedoms and rights of the people that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare shall be guaranteed under the Constitution."

"Reporters are responsible for reporting, not investigating," Lo said.

Lo also declared: "It is impossible for reporters to come up with `100 percent accurate' stories."

"The plaintiff's civil claim could sink the entire magazine since it is quite impossible for it to afford the claim," he said.

In response to Lo's arguments, Koo said his client's bottom line was the demand for an apology.

"Our major argument is to ask for a proper apology. That is all," Koo said.

"We know that the defendants may not be able afford so much, but the second verdict by the high court has marginalized the penalty, did it not? We are merely requesting the defendants to make it up to Lu for the damage they have done," he said.

The debate lasted nearly two and a half hours, but the atmosphere was calm.

Lin, the presiding judge, said that a decision would be announced tomorrow at 10am.

According to Lu's original civil claim, which was upheld by the district court, the defendants -- Wang, editor-in-chief Yang Chao (楊照), executive president Jan Hung-chi (詹宏志), publisher Wang Hsing-ching (王杏慶) and reporters Yang Shu-mei (楊舒媚), Wu Yan-ling (吳燕玲) and Tao Ling-yu (陶令瑜) -- have to publish a clarification on the front pages of the nation's 32 newspapers as well as broadcast it on the radio and TV for three days.

The cost of printing such clarifications has been estimated at NT$180 million.

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