A recent job reassignment by the Ministry of Justice of three Tainan prosecutors has been questioned by pan-green politicians as politically motivated, allegedly meant to influence the outcome of a judicial probe into vote-buying allegations involving Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Lee is involved in bribery charges in both the city councilor and council speaker elections, with Tainan City Mayor William Lai (賴清德) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) refusing to attend any of the municipality’s council meetings until Lee’s cases are settled.
The ministry on Wednesday last week approved the promotion and transfer list of 155 prosecutors and judicial officials to fill vacancies in judicial agencies and regional offices, following the convening of the Prosecutors’ Personnel Review Committee.
The announcement included 37 prosecutors transferred to second-trial courts, 56 to first-trial courts and 62 new prosecutors were put on probation-period assignments.
Those reassigned included Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office deputy chief prosecutor Tsai Li-yi (蔡麗宜); Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office’s “Crackdown on Black Gold” head prosecutor Chung Ho-hsien (鍾和憲) and prosecutor Chou Meng-hsiang (周盟翔).
DPP Tainan branch spokeswoman Chiu Li-li (邱莉莉) said Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) made the final decision on transfers and promotions of prosecutorial officials by circling names from the submitted list.
“On the surface, it might look like a routine job reassignment, but the timing was highly sensitive,” Chiu said.
“It made people wonder whether there was a hidden agenda. People are also likely to worry whether the moves would affect the pace and outcome of an ongoing investigation into Lee’s alleged vote-buying,” she said.
Chiu said that Chung and Chou were members of Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office’s “Crackdown on Black Gold” taskforce, who led police and judicial officials to seize a ballot box and other evidence during elections for Tainan City Council speaker and deputy speaker posts last year, adding that, along with carrying out the investigation into Lee’s alleged vote-buying, they were the prosecutors who laid charges of election fraud against Lee.
Although deputy chief prosecutor Tsai was not directly engaged in the probe, she was familiar with the case, Chiu said, adding that the trio’s removal from the Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office could influence the court hearing and debates to invalidate Lee’s election to the speaker’s post.
“The timing and reassignment of the trio were highly coincidental and has made people question the political motives behind the move,” Chiu said.
Lai yesterday said the ministry’s transfer of the trio from Tainan was “incredulous, an unprecedented action,” adding that such move was highly unusual.
“I hope the new prosecutors taking up the probe can scrupulously adhere to the spirit of judicial independence,” he added.
In response to the charges, ministry officials said the move was normal and according to proper procedures for transfers and promotions.
Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office officials said the transfers and promotions were routine job reassignments by the ministry, and that, since prosecutors are guardians for people in a nation governed by law, they would handle all cases in accordance to “procedural justice,” based on the evidence and facts of each case.
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