Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Judge chosen to oversee Lee case

POLITICAL GAMES:The indictment has prompted supporters of the former president to write an open letter to Washington leaders to stop the ‘political trial’

By Rich Chang and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters

In a random drawing yesterday, the Taipei District Court selected Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) to preside over the legal proceedings surrounding the indictment of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for allegedly embezzling state funds.

The court announced that judges Lin Po-hung (林柏泓) and Ho Chiao-mei (何俏美) would co-hear the case.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Special Investigation Panel last month accused Lee and a top aide of illegally siphoning US$7.8 million from secret diplomatic funds used by the National Security Bureau and laundering the money during his terms in office from 1988 until 2000.

If convicted, Lee, 88, could face at least 10 years in prison.

Lee denies the charges.

The panel yesterday delivered the case to the district court and the court immediately conducted the random drawing, which was open to the media.

Lee, the nation’s first democratically elected president, is the second former president to be charged with corruption and money laundering, after Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was found guilty by the Supreme Court last year.

Chou acquitted Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), on Nov. 5 last year of charges of money laundering and taking bribes from bankers in exchange for manipulating bank mergers.

In that ruling, Chou said according to the Anti-Corruption Act (貪汙治罪條例), the president’s duties did not include overseeing bank mergers and therefore Chen would have been unable to receive money from banks and then reciprocate by aiding their merger proposals.

Chou is also the judge who ordered Chen released from detention without bail in December 2008. However, he was replaced by Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓), sparking allegations of procedural flaws and political interference.

Meanwhile, signs have emerged that Lee’s indictment has sparked anger among Taiwanese-Americans.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), a party that maintains close relations with Lee, said US-based Taiwanese groups had written letters of protest opposing the “politically motivated” accusations of corruption and money laundering by the special prosecutors.

Expressing support for Lee’s defense, Taiwanese civic groups in New York released a joint statement earlier this month saying the indictment was sparked by Lee’s calls to “give up on [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to save Taiwan.”

“For the purpose of political retribution, Ma’s government has broken Lee’s previous contributions to Taiwan’s democracy, freedoms and other universal values like judicial independence,” said the joint statement, which the TSU said was signed by several leading Taiwanese expatriate leaders.

Another statement by the Taiwanese American Conference (East Coast) quoted attendees at a conference held in Pennsylvania as expressing “regret and anger” over the “political oppression” that they said symbolized the indictment.

“Taiwanese should bravely stand up together to condemn the Ma administration for wreaking democratic norms, harming judicial independence and manipulating the law for political aims,” a copy of the statement provided by the TSU said.

Meanwhile, a petition circulated by a former Taiwanese presidential adviser calling on the US government to “stop the political trial of Dr Lee Teng-hui,” whom he called the “father of Taiwan’s democracy,” was also making its rounds of overseas Taiwanese communities, the TSU said.

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