Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan High Court to select Chen case judges through random drawing today

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) trial reaches the Taipei branch of the Taiwan High Court today, which will randomly select judges to preside over his case and hold a detention hearing on whether to keep Chen behind bars.

The High Court will hold a manual random drawing to select the judges. The court has 91 criminal court judges. Apart from 10 judges who are either critically ill, about to retire, have important administrative duties or are in the middle of other complex cases with a heavy workload, all others are required to participate in the random drawing.

Taiwan High Court spokesperson Wen Yao-yuan (溫耀源) vowed to ensure the selection is fair and transparent. The court has also opened up one of its courtrooms and the waiting area where the former president may sit during trial recesses, for photographers and cameramen to take photos.

The selection process will be closely watched because the Council of Grand Justices has been asked to rule on the constitutionality of the switching of judges in Chen’s case while it was at the Taipei District Court.

Last December, a panel of judges replaced Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) with Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) in the trial of Chen and 12 codefendants. The change prompted allegations of procedural flaws and political interference.

Once the High Court selects the judges, they will summon the former president and hold a detention hearing to hear both sides’ arguments on whether Chen should be kept behind bars. They must reach a decision before tomorrow, when Chen’s current term of detention is set to expire.

Chen has been detained since Dec. 30 last year.

The Special Investigation Panel (SIP) of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, which is in charge of Chen’s case, on Tuesday issued more indictments accusing Chen and four others of embezzlement in a case involving classified diplomatic projects.

Although SIP Spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) yesterday denied the indictments had anything to do with the upcoming detention hearing, this is not the first time prosecutors have issued indictments immediately before a detention hearing is to be held.

On May 5, the SIP charged Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) with taking bribes and profiteering from former Taipei Financial Center Corp chairwoman Diana Chen (陳敏薰) and former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒).

Two days later, Chen Shui-bian’s detention hearing was held at the Taipei District Court. The court denied his request for release, as well as his request to be sent to hospital under surveillance.

Chen Shui-bian had told the court he was feeling physically unwell.

On Sept. 11, the district court found Chen Shui-bian, his wife and 11 codefendants guilty. The former president and his wife were sentenced to life in prison and fined a total of NT$500 million (US$15.4 million).

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