Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE : Retired prosecutor pans use of capital punishment

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan High Court Prosecutors’ Office senior prosecutor Chen Chui (陳追) retired in February after a long career, part of which saw him oversee the executions of convicted criminals.

Chen was in charge of supervising executions between 1988 and 1991, a time when laws were strictly enforced in a bid to deter crime and maintain social stability.

During those three years, Chen oversaw the executions of 122 people. The state-sanctioned killings were carried out with pistols at an execution ground.

“I needed to confirm the identify of the condemned criminal, watch the execution and then make sure they were dead,” Chen told the Taipei Times in an interview. “Although I was in charge of executions, I am personally opposed to the death penalty.”

“Many religions urge people to practice mercy, and not to kill. If people are not supposed to kill each other, then how is it OK for the state to kill people?” Chen asked.

Chen said he believed people who commit crimes do so because of personal problems. Society, their schools and families are also partly responsible, he said.

During the interview, Chen recalled some of the executions he witnessed.

Although they were violent criminals, some of them showed signs of fear when they knew they were soon going to die, the prosecutor said.

Chen oversaw the executions of gangster Hu Guan-bao (胡關寶) and his associate Chang Chia-hu (張家虎). The duo kidnapped Taishin Financial Holding Co chairman Eric Wu (吳東亮) in 1990 and demanded NT$100 million (US$3 million) from his family. Wu was released on Dec. 18, 1990, after his family paid the ransom.

“I remember Hu’s hands were shaking when he was brought out of his cell to the execution ground. He asked for a cigarette, and he and Chang smoked for about half an hour before the sentence was carried out,” he said.

Wu Hsin-hua (吳新華), who was involved a number of robberies and murders including the killing of two police officers in Hsinchu, admitted to killing 12 people.

Chen said Wu, who refused to receive anesthesia before the execution like other condemned criminals, received five shots to the heart before he died.

Those being executed normally received only three shots, Chen said. He also presided over the execution of another notorious criminal, Lin Tsung-cheng (林宗誠), who led his associates in the killing of a police officer during an armored car robbery. Lin also committed a number of other robberies and murders.

Chen also oversaw the execution of “anti-communist freedom fighter” Ma Xiao-pin (馬曉濱) in 1990 for the kidnapping of a son of Evergreen Group chairman Chang Yung-fa (張榮發).

Ma was a member of a group of six “freedom fighters” who gained international fame in 1983 for hijacking a plane from China and taking it to South Korea.

Taiwan has made progress in the years since Chen was in charge of state-sanctioned killings, but the issue of the death penalty remains a controversial one.

The Ministry of Justice has said that Taiwan might not be able to abolish the death penalty in the near future because a majority of the public believes that it deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Supporters of capital punishment argue that without the death penalty, the relatives of the victims of cruel crimes would not be given justice.

But since the government stated its policy goal of “gradually” abolishing the death sentence, the ministry has not carried out any killings in nearly three years, while 31 prisoners remain on death row.

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