The Ministry of Justice yesterday denied reports that the judge in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) embezzlement and corruption case would be switched again.
The denial came after Chinese-language weekly Next Magazine reported that a recent meeting of the Council of Grand Justices reached a consensus that the decision to relieve Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) of Chen’s case and hand it over to Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) was unconstitutional.
The case may be returned to Chou, and Chen could be released from detention as early as next month, the magazine reported.
When Chou was presiding over Chen’s case last year, he twice ruled against detaining Chen, saying that Chen had no opportunity to flee because as a former president he was constantly protected and escorted by special agents.
However, when the case was switched to Tsai, he repeatedly ruled to keep the former president behind bars because he said Chen might collude with witnesses or try to abscond.
In December last year, a panel of judges ordered that Chou be replaced by Tsai, who would preside over the four new cases filed against the former president. The switch was controversial and skeptics questioned whether the decision to merge the trials was procedurally flawed and politically motivated.
Chen’s lawyer Shih Yi-ling (石宜琳) yesterday said he would be glad to see the grand justices rule Chen’s detainment was against the law.
“If the grand justices rule that the former president’s case was procedurally flawed, it would have a positive impact on litigation rights,” Shih said.
In response, the ministry denied reports of any plans to hand the cases back to Chou.
“The grand justices are still in the process of gathering and sifting through the information,” ministry spokesperson Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定) said.
He said there was no timeline on when the grand justices would announce their ruling.
When asked for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said: “They [grand justices] should not make a constitutional interpretation that contradicts mainstream public opinion.”
Saying that 10 of the 15 Grand Justices were nominated by the former president, Lee said: “This is not the time for you to repay [Chen] for his nomination.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG