The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld a district court’s ruling that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Tian (余天) was not guilty of defamation by saying that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his family members possess US passports.
The court rejected the prosecutors’ appeal and ruled that Yu was not guilty because the question of whether then-presidential candidate Ma possessed US nationality was a matter of public concern, and Yu’s freedom of speech was protected under the Constitution.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) filed a lawsuit against Yu last August for his remarks during a campaign rally alleging that Ma and his family could flee the country at any time. Yu was charged for defamation with intent to cause Ma to fail in his presidential election bid.
The Banciao District Court ruled in March that Yu was not guilty because what he said was based on reasonable doubt and evidence.
“Those remarks, though a bit sensational and exaggerated, referred to things worthy of public discussion,” the Banciao District Court stated.
The prosecutors office appealed the case in the higher court, which rejected the appeal yesterday after a thorough review. The high court’s ruling can be appealed.
In other news, the Nantou District Court on Wednesday convicted DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) and his former aide Yao Sheng-chih (姚昇志) for corruption and accepting bribes. Gao was sentenced to five years and six months in prison.
His former aide was sentenced to two years and four months. Both were stripped of civil duties for two years.
Gao was indicted in October 2007 by Nantou prosecutors for accepting bribes from a businessman in exchange for lobbying for him.
Prosecutors alleged that Yao received NT$2 million (US$60,000) in April from a construction company in exchange for his promise to lobby the National Property Administration (NPA) to help the company win the rights to lease a piece of land belonging to the Taichung City Government.
Gao is alleged to have taken NT$500,000 of the NT$ 2 million.
Prosecutors said Gao summoned NPA Director Kuo Wu-po (郭武博) and other agency officials to attend legislative meetings so he could ask them about renting the land to the company.
Gao yesterday said he would appeal.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA