Fri, Nov 14, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Ma professor backs review of detentions

By Richard Hazeldine  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jerome Cohen, President Ma Ying-jeou’s mentor during his studies at Harvard University, yesterday called for an independent commission to be set up to investigate the recent string of detentions of present and former Democratic Progressive Party officials.

PHOTO: CNA

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) mentor during his studies at Harvard University called yesterday for an independent commission to be set up to investigate the recent string of detentions of present and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government officials.

In a South China Morning Post opinion piece titled “Improved cross-strait relations appear to have come at a cost to some civil liberties in Taiwan,” Professor Jerome Cohen said that pre-indictment detention, although legal, made it difficult for the detained party to “mount an adequate defense.”

Cohen suggested that the legislature or an independent commission look at revising the law to “strike a new balance between the threat of corruption to a democratic government and the threat of incommunicado detention to civil liberty.”

He also criticized apparent leaks by prosecutors that have been a feature of the investigations, saying that such behavior “cannot be allowed in a democratic system.”

Commenting on police handling of the protests during Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit to Taiwan earlier this month, Cohen — a professor of law at New York University’s School of Law and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations — said that confiscating flags from demonstrators went “beyond the limits of a free society.”

Cohen wrote that Ma should honor his election campaign promises and seek to amend the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法) to eliminate the need for protesters to apply for permission.

He also said that police training needed to be reformed to enhance compliance with the law.

Although police had reacted to often violent provocation by protesters, this did not justify incidents of police brutality, he wrote.

When asked about the opinion piece by the Taipei Times, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that he “could not comment on the article as he was not aware of it.”

“The president respects the independence of the judiciary and has no intention of interfering in judicial affairs,” Wang said.

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