Wed, Aug 15, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Given that the court had decided special allowances should be treated as a "substantial subsidy," there was no need for prosecutors to appeal, People First Party Legislator Lee Fu-tien (李復甸) said.

Lee said that the ruling should be used as a precedent for other special allowance cases involving officials.

However, he said it should not apply to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) alleged abuse of the presidential "state affairs fund."

"Despite similarities between special allowances and the presidential `state affairs fund,' Chen was also charged with using fake receipts to seek reimbursement from the fund," Lee said.

Meanwhile, the president declined to comment on Ma's acquittal, saying the case was not over yet.

"What matters now is to present the [Democratic Progressive Party, DPP] pairing with the best chance of winning the presidential election," he said. "What we should be worried about is the party's internal problems, not outside factors."

The DPP must unite, Chen said, rather than focus on how to benefit from others' mistakes.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said that she respected the judiciary, but the ruling was not final until the Supreme Court handed down the verdict.

Lu declined to comment on whether the ruling of the district court would affect next March's presidential election, saying that reporters should ask Ma's rival, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), for his opinion.

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), a member of first lady Wu Shu-jen's (吳淑珍) legal team, said that he would have to read the verdict before commenting on whether it would apply to Wu's case.

Wu and three former Presidential Office aides were indicted on charges of corruption for allegedly embezzling NT$14.8 million from Chen's "state affairs fund."

Upset by the verdict in Ma's case, the DPP yesterday urged prosecutors to appeal and go ahead with a second trial as soon as possible.

"We can't understand how the Taipei District Court could pronounce Ma not guilty even though the proof of his crime was beyond doubt," DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun told a press conference.

Yu said Ma had a clear motive and also clearly violated the law by wiring half of his mayoral special allowance into his personal accounts and spending the money on personal expenses.

"Justice was not served. This shows that we still have a long way to go to redress the many injustices of the past," he said.

DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who was also at the conference, said the verdict contradicted a precedent.

He was referring to the case of independent Legislator Yen Chin-piao (顏清標), who was then speaker of Taichung County Council. Yen was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2001 for spending money from his special allowance in liquor stores. Yen is still appealing the case in the Supreme Court.

Elsewhere, DPP caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said Ma had set a poor example for the public by making inconsistent remarks about whether the special mayoral allowance was a public fund or part of his salary.

"US president [Richard] Nixon stepped down because he told lies in the Watergate scandal [in 1972] ... We want to tell Mr Ma that he is not qualified to be a presidential candidate because he also told lies [in his special allowance case]," Wang said.

When approached for comment, Taiwan Solidarity Union spokeswoman Chou Mei-li (周美里) said the party respected the court, but added that the verdict would only have a temporary influence on next year's presidential poll because voters would be more concerned about candidates' policies regarding the nation's future.

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