Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Hundreds of lawyers criticize protesters’ arrests

LETTER OF THE LAW:The attorneys said the public was entitled to freedom of expression, the arrests violated due process and the police had used excessive force

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Amid an increase in protests over the forced house demolitions in Miaoli County’s Dapu Borough, police set up blockades outside a building in Taipei yesterday where President Ma Ying-jeou was attending the graduation ceremony of government officials who had passed exams to work for the National Immigration Agency. Along the blockades, special areas were designated from where protesters could express their opinions, illustrated by the sign on the blockade in the center of the picture, which reads: “Area for expressing opinion.”

Photo: CNA

More than 500 lawyers yesterday issued a joint statement condemning what they said were unlawful arrests and excessive use of force in dealing with protesters this week.

“We cannot sit and watch law enforcement’s unlawful arrests, which violated due process of law,” they said in the statement, which had been endorsed by 510 attorneys as of noon.

National Chengchi University professor Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮), Hung Chung-yen (洪崇晏), a National Taiwan University student and several other students were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday during protests in Taipei over the forced demolition of four houses in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南). They said they were injured during the arrests and accused national security authorities of instructing police to use excessive force.

People are entitled to freedom of expression and freedom from fear, both rights that the state could not infringe at will, the lawyers said, adding that it is every citizen’s responsibility to safeguard the freedom of speech and ensure a society of diverse opinion on public policies.

The arrests of people who obviously had not committed criminal offenses was a violation of the due process stipulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), they said, adding that the excessive use of force had infringed basic rights and had a chilling impact on freedom of expression.

The lawyers called for police officers deployed at protests to always uphold the public’s rights and the spirit of the rule of law. They said unlawful arrests would constitute a criminal offense.

Senior olice officers should also be held responsible for their decisions, the lawyers said.

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