President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday dismissed concerns that his administration had abused its power with a recent string of pre-indictment detentions, and said the Ministry of Justice was discussing whether suspects should be handcuffed when taken into custody.
“Whether to handcuff suspects is an issue that can be discussed ... When comparing the number of prosecutions and pretrial detentions, I don’t think the number [of pretrial detentions] was excessive,” Ma said yesterday while receiving New York University law professor Jerome Cohen.
Cohen was Ma’s mentor during his studies at Harvard University. He recently shared his concerns over a string of detentions of present and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government officials and called for an independent commission to investigate the matter in an opinion piece published in the South China Morning Post last month.
Cohen said in the article, which was subtitled “Improved cross-strait relations appear to have come at a cost to some civil liberties in Taiwan,” that pre-indictment detention, although legal, made it difficult for the detained party to “mount an adequate defense.”
He also challenged police handling of the protests during Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit to Taiwan last month.
Ma yesterday lauded his mentor for raising “correct and tough” questions in the opinion piece about pretrial detention, handcuffing suspects and the police’s handling of the protests, and said the Government Information Office had provided Cohen with information to address his concerns.
The decision to detain suspects before indictment was made by three court judges, rather than by prosecutors, Ma said, and not every suspect would be detained.
Cohen did not mention the issues yesterday, and instead urged the public to support Taiwan’s democracy and Ma’s leadership, as the country faced a difficult time.