Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Rice bomber helped WTO talks: lawmaker

STAFF WRITER

Students yesterday support Yang Ju-men, known as the ``rice bomber,'' at the Taiwan High Court, which is set to deliver a verdict on Yang's appeal on Jan. 5.

PHOTO: CHEN TSE-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) yesterday testified in defense of Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), also known as the "rice bomber," saying that Yang has helped Taiwan succeed in its trade talks with the US.

Yang, 25, was sent to jail in October for planting more than a dozen explosive devices around the country to protest rice imports. On Monday, he ended a six-day hunger strike aimed at urging the government to resist US pressure at the recent WTO meeting in Hong Kong for more agricultural imports.

"Yang was a bargaining chip in Taiwan's WTO talks with the US. His case had a positive effect on the success of the talks," Lai testified at the Taiwan High Court yesterday in Yang's appeal against his seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Although Yang has confessed to all the charges against him, he argued that he wanted to raise public awareness of the hardships of local farmers. He has also criticized the government's handling of his case, and urged the relevant government agencies to take good care of local farmers.

In addition to the prison term, Yang received a fine of NT$100,000 (US$3,000).

He said yesterday he hopes the court can reduce his sentence to five years.

Lai, who served on the National Security Council directly under the Presidential Office between July 2000 and last May, said she testified on Yang's behalf simply out of conviction.

According to her, Taiwan has had to import as much as 144,720 tonnes of rice since 2002, of which rice from the US accounts for 70 percent.

She said that Washington has pressured Taipei to lift the ceiling and relax customs controls as well, but the government refused to accept this.

Lai said that after Yang's bombing campaign started in 2003, she and other negotiators explained the predicament facing the nation's farmers to the US by referring to the case.

Yang's case actually helped the government obtain a "BATANA" (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) during the talks, and that he did make a contribution to the public interest, she said.

A group of students yesterday held a protest outside the High Court to show their support for Yang.

The court is expected to deliver a verdict in Yang's appeal on Jan. 5.

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