Thu, Aug 02, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers decry new charges against Ma

WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID KMT lawmakers say that the prosecutors' decision to add to the charges against Ma constitutes interference in the presidential election

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers said yesterday that additional charges laid by Taipei prosecutors against former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) constituted "judicial persecution."

During the last court hearing in the Ma embezzlement case on Tuesday, prosecutors employed additional legal provisions against Ma, saying that his actions also represented a breach of trust as per Article 342 and Article 134 of the Criminal Code (刑法).

Those were in addition to the charges of corruption and forgery that had already been made against him.

Article 134 states that a public official who takes advantage of his authority, opportunity or means afforded by his position to intentionally commit an offense not provided for in the law shall be subject to harsher punishment than that prescribed for such offense, with the prison term increased by up to 50 percent.

The maximum punishment for breach of trust is five years in prison.

With the prosecution's request that his sentence be increased 50 percent, Ma could face a sentence exceeding seven years in jail.

The Taipei District Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the case on Aug. 14.

Condemning the prosecutors' charges, KMT caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) said that the prosecutors' moves underscored an observation made by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) the previous day to the effect that "judicial personnel might try to interfere in the 2008 presidential election."

KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said that only people in office have the ability to manipulate the judiciary and called for judicial personnel to resist the pressure from the ruling party.

Ma, the KMT candidate for next year's presidential election, has been indicted on charges of embezzling NT$11.17 million (US$338,800) from a special allowance fund designated for his discretionary use while he served as Taipei mayor from 1998 until last year.

Prosecutors stated in their Feb. 13 indictment that the special fund had been set aside by the government to reimburse the mayor for job-related spending.

They said that although government regulations allow the mayor to use half of the fund by simply signing a receipt instead of providing vouchers to account for his spending, the money should go toward job-related spending and that any remaining funds should be returned to the government coffers.

KMT Legislator Lin Teh-fu (林德福) said that the prosecutors' attempts to undermine Ma's presidential candidacy and influence the campaigns of the presidential candidates were "obvious" and called for members of the judicial system to resist pressure from the government.

KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate and former Kaohsiung mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has also been accused of misusing his special allowance funds but has never been subpoenaed by the prosecution, which he claimed was "proof" that the prosecution -- despite statements by the Kaohsiung prosecutors that they were still compiling evidence against Hsieh -- has double standards.

Responding to the criticism, DPP caucus whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) called for the KMT to "show some respect for the judicial system," adding that the KMT was damaging its own image every time it accused the judiciary of "exerting political interference in cases" whenever a KMT heavyweight is indicted.

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