Former minister of transportation and communications Kuo Yao-chi’s (郭瑤琪) conviction on corruption charges epitomized the judicial system’s “decadent, primitive and barbaric” nature, academics told a symposium in Taipei yesterday.
Kuo’s conviction on Dec. 5 was a perfect example of how helpless Taiwanese are before the law and illustrated how every encounter citizens have with the judiciary is similar to a game of Russian roulette because their fate is determined by pure luck, the academics said at the forum on Taiwan’s judiciary, which was organized by the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
The Supreme Court sentenced Kuo to eight years in prison after the Taiwan High Court overturned previous acquittals to find her guilty of receiving a US$20,000 bribe from service industry conglomerate the Nan Ren Hu Group in 2006, while she was supervising a development project as transportation minister.
The sentence violates the rules of evidence and of experience with insufficient investigation, said Hsu Hui-feng (許惠峰), a law professor at the Chinese Culture University.
Not only was the alleged US$20,000 in bribery money never found, but the conglomerate did not end up tendering a bid, Hsu said, adding that there was also perjury in the case.
“I have no idea how the court could determine it was a corruption with so many flaws in the case,” the professor said.
Hsu said that the validity of convictions in Taiwan — in particular in corruption cases — has always been questioned since 34 of the 56 appealed corruption cases handled by the Taiwan High Court last year ended up with reduced penalties.
The figure means that 64 percent of the rulings handed down by the High Court and district courts were inconsistent, Hsu added.
Lin Iong-sheng (林雍昇), a researcher at the Taiwan Brain Trust thinktank, said that — along with a slew of other cases involving pan-green camp politicians, including that of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) — Kuo’s trial showed that prosecutors and judges “still employ illegal and dirty tricks, among them pretrial detention and subornation of perjury, to do whatever they want.”
It is ironic that the nation’s television viewers are obsessed with the US crime drama series CSI and amazed by the scientific criminal investigations it portrays, yet have to endure so many unjust trials in real life, Lin said.
With countries like Japan beginning to work on reforming their judiciaries toward a jury system, Wu Ching-chin (吳景欽), an associate law professor at Aletheia University, urged Taiwan to immediately engage in a similar reforms.
“The judicial system in Taiwan is now on the edge of a cliff. It is a do-or-die situation for us. After all, people’s lives, freedom and integrity are at stake,” Wu said.