Domestic media called for a fair trial and urged the public to stay calm after former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was charged with corruption on Friday.
A slightly thinner and tired-looking Chen — who went on a hunger strike while in detention — was released early yesterday after being charged with embezzlement and money laundering along with 13 others, including his wife and son.
Prosecutors said Chen, the first former president to face trial, and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) made illegal gains of some US$45 million from embezzling public funds and taking bribes from businessmen.
Their son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚) were also indicted for money laundering in connection with the case.
Chen thanked his lawyers, his party and supporters after his release and said the 32 days in custody were the “hardest and loneliest” days of his life.
The Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) urged a fair trial and condemned various violations of the law during the investigation process.
“Whether a former president is guilty or not depends on the evidence ... He is innocent until proven guilty according to the law and his right to due process should be protected,” the editorial said.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily called the case a “milestone” for the rule of law in Taiwan and urged the judges to make their decision based on the evidence alone.
“The case will have a profound impact on Taiwan ... to become a milestone to further Taiwan’s democracy and its rule of law,” it said. “We urge the judges to focus on the evidence ... while politicians and commentators should respect the judicial system so the case can become a positive lesson in Taiwan.”
The English-language China Post also called for calm for the upcoming trial.
“All the people should wait patiently for the outcome of the trial ... They shouldn’t do anything to influence the judges in any way, because the rule of law in Taiwan is at stake,” it said. “We should show the world that Taiwan is a democracy where anybody who commits a crime, be he a man on the street or a former president, is duly punished.”