Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not receive a fair trial and could be seen as a de facto political prisoner, a fact-finding mission sent by a Taiwanese-American organization concluded in its preliminary findings after a two-week investigation in Taiwan.
The way Chen, who is serving an 18-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption and is currently in hospital receiving medical treatment for various ailments, has been treated in prison and the way his trial was handled have not been seen even in some dictatorships, the two-member mission told the Taipei Times in an interview.
Michael Richardson and Mary Loan traveled to Taiwan to conduct a “truth-seeking” inquiry on behalf of the Formosan Association for Human Rights (FAHR). They left on Friday.
During their two-week visit, they met with Chen in his hospital room and conducted interviews with pan-green camp legislators, Chen’s attorneys, Chen’s medical team and human rights activists, Richardson said.
Richardson said a formal report will not be ready for several weeks, but that preliminary findings clearly establish three ways in which Chen did not receive a fair trial.
First, there are various structural problems with Taiwan’s justice system because having “no jury trials, politically appointed judges and the ability of prosecutors to appeal not-guilty verdicts all serve to create opportunity for judicial abuse.”
Second, a number of unusual and irregular procedural events cast serious doubt on the fairness of the former president’s trial, including the changing of judges, midnight court sessions, an after-hours skit by prosecutors mocking Chen, reportedly improper communication between the court and the prosecution and restrictions on public attendance, Richardson said.
“Third, there were classic indicators of an unfair trial: Perjured testimony, a prosecution deal and recanted testimony,” he said.
Richardson did not speak to any government officials because he thought “the government was represented by what it has done.”
While President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has reiterated that he would keep his hands off the judicial system, Richardson said his investigation clearly implicated that the trial had been politically influenced and would be deemed “unfair by any standards in the US.”
Richardson, who is from Boston, Massachusetts, and currently lives in the Central American country of Belize, said Chen’s health and his hospital environment, which “was more like a hospital cell and kept Chen largely in isolation,” were also a concern.
Recalling his first meeting with Chen in April 2010, when the former president was an inmate at the Taipei Detention Center, Richardson said Chen “was animated, very upbeat and smiled a lot.”
However, “[Chen] was a different man than [the one] I met two years ago. He was a broken man,” Richardson said, adding that Chen never smiled and made no eye contact during their one-hour meeting at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
Neither Chen’s environment at the hospital nor the treatment he received in prison were acceptable, Richardson said.
Chen’s hospital room was “not an environment in which somebody who suffers from severe depression can heal,” he said.
In prison, “perhaps the only thing they haven’t done to him is waterboarding,” Richardson added, citing what he learned from interviews with various sources.
“If all the prisoners in Taiwan are being treated the way he’s been treated, there’s a big problem with Taiwan’s prison system,” he said.
Richardson said he had briefed officials at the American Institute in Taiwan about his findings and would submit his report to the FAHR after returning to the US.
Richardson began studying Taiwan’s history and political development six years ago. His previous field of expertise was electoral law and how people in overseas US territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam and Samoa, obtain US citizenship.
Taiwan might be China’s next target after it has “walled off” Hong Kong from the rest of the world with its new national security legislation, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology fellow Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) said on Thursday. At a seminar organized by the Economic Democracy Union, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Hong Kong Outlanders and the Judicial Reform Foundation, Wu said that the legislation is simultaneously a fig leaf concealing Beijing’s autocratic rule in Hong Kong and a figurative “Berlin Wall,” denying democratic countries access to Hong Kong. Wu said it is evident that Taiwan would be China’s next target. The
YOUNGEST PATIENT: Cases of botulism have been only sporadically reported over the past few years, with two in 2015, six in 2016 and none in the past three years The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported the nation’s first case of infant botulism this year, a four-month-old boy in northern Taiwan, as well as five new cases of Japanese encephalitis confirmed last week. The boy was introduced to homemade solid food in the middle of last month, but began to experience constipation and loss of appetite on June 23, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said, adding that he was taken to the hospital when he developed a fever and shortness of breath on June 25. In the hospital, the boy also experienced a rapid heartbeat, limb
The National Taiwan Museum’s Railway Department Park in Taipei is to open to the public today. The park in Datong District (大同) near the North Gate (北門, Beimen) is one of the museum’s four branches. During the Japanese colonial era, the site housed the railway department of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan’s Bureau of Transportation. After World War II, it served as the headquarters for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for several decades. In 2007, it was listed as a national monument under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法). At an opening ceremony yesterday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung
CHALLENGER DEEP: Lin Ying-Tsong was invited by Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo to join him on a 10-hour long trip in the company’s submersible Taiwanese-American Lin Ying-Tsong (林穎聰) last month became the first person from Asia and the 12th in human history to dive into the deepest part on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Lin, 45, an expert in deep sea acoustics with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, joined US adventurer and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, 54, on June 22 in a descent to the central pool of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the trench, which lies at a depth of more than 10,900m. The pair made the descent in a submersible named Limiting Factor, a US$37