Sat, Feb 05, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Ma appeals to High Court to protest no-libel verdict

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) filed an appeal with the High Court yesterday after a district court cleared the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of libel for allegedly labeling him a supporter of China.

"The judge made a wrong decision, and I decided to take the case to the High Court," Ma told a press conference yesterday. "I will ask for NT$1 million in compensation in order to pay my lawyers' fees."

In October 2003, the DPP made and broadcast a TV ad promoting a calling for a new constitution through the referendum process. The ad used montages of several people holding China's five-star flag with Ma holding a Republic of China (ROC) flag during a national day celebration. A close-up of Ma's face was shown as a veteran called out "Long life Hu Jintao (胡錦濤)."

Ma believed the DPP had libeled him as "red" and "China's man." He filed a lawsuit at the Taipei District Court, asking for NT$1 in symbolic compensation.

Judge Wu Ching-jen (吳青蓉) ruled last week that the purpose of the ad was to emphasize the confusion over national identity in Taiwan, and to highlight President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) idea of promoting a new constitution through the referendum process.

"The public would not make the mistake of thinking Ma was handling China's flag or calling out `Long life Hu Jintao,' therefore the DPP did not damage Ma's reputation in the ad," Wu said in her ruling.

She said the ad's content fell within the boundary of free speech.

A angry Ma yesterday criticized the judgment as flawed.

"The DPP viciously mixed different montages to paint me red in that ad, and broadcast it 240 times on TV, but the judge said it was legal. Where is justice?" he said.

However, he said he would withdraw his appeal if the DPP apologized.

Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), director of the DPP's Information and Culture Department, said yesterday that the aim of the was to highlight China's oppression of Taiwan, and there was no intent to defame Ma.

Cheng said the judge had made the right decision and the DPP hoped Ma could forget the past and face the future.

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