The detention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and other pan-green figures have sparked a debate about potential amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法).
Chen Shui-bian, Chen Ming-wen and Su all started hunger strikes in protest of their “unfair” detention without charge. Su and Chen Ming-wen continued to turn away food until they were indicted and released, while Chen Shui-bian gave up his hunger strike after being hospitalized.
The former president was detained on Nov. 12 after questioning by the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in relation to money laundering allegations.
After his lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) continued to speak on the former president’s behalf in public, the Ministry of Justice requested that Cheng not pass on any messages and said it would seek punishment for Cheng with the Taipei Bar Association. The association said Cheng was merely carrying out his duties as a lawyer.
Cheng criticized prosecutors for Chen Shui-bian’s continued detention without charge.
The former president was indicted on Friday and released on bail yesterday.
Su is suspected of accepting bribes in a landfill construction project in Yunlin County back in 2006.
Yunlin prosecutors showed up at her residence early in the morning on Nov. 4, escorted her to the prosecutors’ office and immediately put her behind bars with the permission of judges.
Su began her hunger strike immediately in protest of being detained without charge and before having been questioned by prosecutors.
Yunlin Chief Prosecutor Liu Chia-fang (劉家芳), upset by complaints from Su and her supporters, defended the decision to detain Yu. Prosecutors would not detain someone without due cause, Liu said.
Su was indicted and released on Nov. 14.
Chen Ming-wen was detained on Oct. 28 on suspicion of bribery. Prosecutors did not speak to him until Nov. 21, when they questioned him and released him on NT$3 million (US$90,000) bail.
RISK OF ABUSE
The detention of suspects without charge for extended periods of time has been criticized by their supporters and lawyers who argue that prosecutors use detention without charge to pressure a suspect into providing information on the case. Prosecutors, however, say the detentions have not violated any laws.
National Taiwan University law professor Wang Jaw-perng (王兆鵬) suggested amending the Code of Criminal Procedure. Judges should only grant a request to detain a suspect in special circumstances, he said.
“Detention should be the last option for prosecutors to consider if the person fails to cooperate and help them in their investigation,” Wang said.
“But our law allows law enforcement officers to detain a suspect first and then continue to collect sufficient evidence [to charge them],” Wang said.
Wang said the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a detention request may be granted in cases where the suspect is believed to have committed a crime punishable by death or a sentence longer than five years.
But “once they detain a person, the prosecutors have the advantage and the game isn’t fair at all.”
The state public prosecutor-general, Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), said that there was no problem with the code, but that there was room for improvement in its implementation.