Sat, Feb 23, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Ma reiterates innocence at retrial of wiretap case

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Former president Ma Ying-jeou reads a statement after attending a retrial at the High Court in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday told the High Court that he did not break the law when dealing with wiretaps of two top lawmakers in 2013 by the now-defunct Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

However, prosecutors said that Ma should be convicted, as judges at the Taipei District Court had cited incorrect legal interpretations in a 2017 decision that found Ma not guilty of libel and leaking confidential information in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).

The High Court in May last year found Ma guilty of contravening provisions of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法), the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法) and the Criminal Code, overturning the District Court’s verdict.

He was sentenced to four months in jail, which could be commuted to a fine of NT$120,000, but the Supreme Court ordered a retrial, saying it found flaws in the High Court’s ruling, which made an ambiguous interpretation of the law regarding the official responsibility and executive powers wielded by Ma, who was president at the time, and the other politicians involved in the case.

In August and September of 2013, the SID headed by then-prosecutor-general Huang Shyh-ming (黃世銘) was conducting an investigation into alleged improper lobbying by Ker in a breach of trust case.

Wiretaps were placed on Ker, then-legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and other legislative officials.

Prosecutors said Huang provided wiretapped transcripts to Ma, who discussed the information with then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and then-Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強).

At the hearing yesterday, Ma said the SID probe targeting Ker was a major case that could have affected the stability of society and the political establishment, which justified his discussions with Jiang and Lo to prevent a potential political crisis.

“What I did was absolutely in line with the law and in accordance to the Constitution,” Ma said. “I stress again that I did not break the law.”

High Court Prosecutor Chou Shih-yu (周士榆) said that Huang met Ma on Aug. 31, 2013, to report on the probe’s progress and hand over wiretap transcripts.

“At that time, the investigation was ongoing. Ma leaked confidential information to Jiang and Lo in a clear breach of the law, as Ma instructed Huang to divulge classified information of an active case,” Chou said.

Ma’s application of “special presidential executive powers” as outlined in the Constitution — which allow the president to consult and mediate disputes between branches of government — did not apply, Chou said, adding that his defense at the Taipei District Court trial was invalid.

Judges cited erroneous interpretations of the law to acquit Ma in the first ruling, so the High Court’s conviction of Ma last year should stand, Chou said.

Ker told reporters before yesterday’s court proceedings that “the case concerns safeguarding the Constitution and the rule of law, to curb the abuse of power by government leaders.”

“The court should make it clear that a president cannot interfere in the judiciary and cannot undermine the Constitution and create political turmoil,” Ker said.

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