Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Legal foundation gears up to defend rights of the needy

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A legal organization providing free legal services to low income earners, including foreign nationals, was launched yesterday in Taipei.

During its launch ceremony, the Legal Aid Foundation (法律扶助基金會) said that its lawyers would strive to protect the rights of its clients.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) attended the ceremony.

"The idea behind this foundation is to protect the legal rights of needy people when they are in a lawsuit, including foreigners," said Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), a lawyer and secretary-general of the foundation.

Cheng is well-known for his volunteer work on behalf of the victims of the Tunghsing Building collapse in Taipei City during the 921 earthquake in 1999. Eighty-seven people in the building were killed.

free assistance

The foundation has an annual budget of NT$500 million provided by the Judicial Yuan, and provides free legal assistance to applicants who meet certain conditions.

"The government is responsible for providing legal aid so that every citizen can fulfill his right to file a suit, which is mandated by the Constitution," Weng said.

Cheng said that applicants qualifying for legal aid include defendants in criminal cases who appeal a seemingly unfair verdict; victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment (including rape), discrimination and work injuries; as well as those suffering from disabilities, Aboriginal people, children and teenagers in general.

In addition, applicants must be low-income earners.

applicants

For single applicants or those applicants with only two family members, monthly income must be less than NT$28,000 in Taipei City, NT$23,000 in Kaohsiung City or NT$22,000 elsewhere in the country.

For applicants with three people in a household, the combined household income must not exceed NT$38,000 in Taipei, NT$33,000 in Kaohsiung or NT$32,000 in the rest of the country.

For applicants with four or more people in a household, the threshold is NT$48,000 in Taipei, NT$43,000 in Kaohsiung and NT$42,000 in other areas.

Applicants must submit a copy of his or her household registration, the tax reports of household members and details of the legal case in question before their applications can be processed.

The foundation said it has five branch offices in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Hualien.

In Taipei, there are six law-yers on call but more lawyers are expected to join the foundation in the near future.

"We are planning to expand and will have 21 branch offices within another three years," Cheng added.

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