Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Pardoned `rice bomber' walks free

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday pardoned convicted "rice bomber" Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), waiving the remaining three years of his sentence.

Yang was released and walked out of Hualien Prison at 5:50pm yesterday.

"I still care a lot about our farmers and would urge the public to show their concern toward the nation's farmers," Yang said when crowded by reporters asking for comments.

Yang, who would have been eligible for parole in October, will still have a criminal record.

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday there are two kinds of amnesty. One terminates an inmate's prison sentence early and allows the inmate to go free. The second declares the original conviction overturned and allows the inmate to be declared innocent. Officials decided that Yang was still responsible for his crimes so he is being released from prison but his criminal record will remain.

Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (李南陽), who accompanied Chen on a visit to Kaohsiung yesterday, said Chen signed the document at 2:10pm after receiving a letter personally delivered by the Presidential Office's First Bureau chief.

Chen was in Kaohsiung attending a state dinner held for visiting Guatemalan President Oscar Berger.

Chen said on Tuesday that Yang's situation deserved compassion and that he would pardon Yang even though he did not meet the requirements set by the recently passed amnesty law.

The president said Yang had served several years of his sentence and had behaved well, and he did not think that he would break the law again.

Yang was sentenced in 2005 to seven-and-a-half years in jail and was fined NT$100,000 for planting a total of 17 bombs in parks, telephone booths and trains beginning in November 2003.

Two of the devices exploded, but caused no injuries and only minor damage. Yang was arrested in November 2004.

Small amounts of rice had been mixed into the homemade explosives, which is how Yang got his nickname.

During his trial Yang said that he had resorted to the bombing campaign to attract the government's attention to the plight of farmers after the nation's accession to the WTO in 2002.

In January last year, the Taiwan High Court reduced Yang's sentence to five years and 10 months, saying his motives had not been malicious.

On April 24 Chen proposed an amnesty plan to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident and the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

Acting on Chen's directive, the Cabinet drafted a commutation bill and referred it to the legislature for approval.

Lawmakers passed an amended, pan-blue version of the bill last Friday that granted amnesty to prisoners serving sentences of 18 months or less. The legislature also passed a non-binding resolution the same day asking the president to pardon Yang.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG

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