If anyone other than Chen knows whether he has had enough time to prepare for the trials, it would be Tseng Te-rong (曾德榮), his court-appointed attorney at the District Court.
“We did not have enough time to get much of anything done,” Tseng said about his meetings with Chen at the detention center. “So when he appeared in court and was sitting next to me, I took the opportunity to talk to him about the case and quickly jot down notes.”
For Chen’s supporters, who protested and shouted profanities when the District Court repeatedly ruled to keep Chen detained, the High Court’s detention decision destroyed what little hope they had that Chen’s appeal would be successful.
Late on Thursday night, after Chen’s supporters outside the courthouse learned of the decision, they threw eggs and bottles of water to protest the ruling. Hundreds of police officers were mobilized to maintain order. Barricades and barbed wire lined the sidewalks to prevent protesters from entering the building.
Many legal experts are keeping a close watch on the process, including Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Lin Feng-cheng (林峰正).
“Pre-trial detention without due cause is a serious infringement of human rights, which is why it should be used as a last resort. If other methods are available to take the place of detention, they should be taken into consideration,” Lin said.
He criticized the High Court for using the fact that Chen has been charged with “serious offenses” as a reason for detaining him, saying this should not be a factor in deciding whether to detain someone.
He also criticized the District Court’s reasoning.
“The [District] Court’s decision to keep Chen detained because he ‘interfered with the judiciary’ was disappointing to Taiwan’s judicial reform,” Lin said, adding that the legal process was just as important as the final result.
There is no easy answer to whether the appeals court would be viewed as “more just” than the District Court based on its handling of Chen’s corruption trials.
In an opinion piece published in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), attorney Stephen Lee (李勝雄), who had represented Wu until February, wrote that in order to pass down a fair and just ruling, the High Court judges should follow a strict principle of innocent until proven guilty.
“Before the High Court begins the litigation process, [Chen] should be viewed as innocent and therefore, released without bail. If the court finds that [Chen] might flee, then the court should set a bail amount,” he wrote.
To ensure judicial independence from politics and other factors, appeals court judges should not be swayed by media reports, and should base all decisions solely on judgment of evidentiary support, Lee wrote.