Hsieh, Chen Chu accuse prosecutors of harassment

By Ko Shu-ling, Jimmy Chuang and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 3

Former Kaohsiung mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday defended civil servants against what he called injustice amid media reports that prosecutors selectively choose targets for investigation, including alleged corruption in the construction of Kaohsiung’s mass rapid transit (MRT) system.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) accused State Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明) on Wednesday of instructing prosecutors to indict staffers of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) involved in the MRT construction project in which Hsieh was also implicated.

Citing what she called a trial transcript of the Kaohsiung District Court, Chen Chu claimed that a chief prosecutor at Kaohsiung High Court, Tsai Kuo-jen (蔡國禎), said it was Chen Tsung-ming’s idea to indict the staffers to allay public concern that it was not doing its job.

Hsieh said yesterday the incident was proof that the judiciary selectively pursued certain cases and that it was unfair to hard-working civil servants. He urged the media to help uncover the truth to clear the names of innocent people.

While he encouraged his staffers to work hard, he said he felt sorry that he could not protect them.

As a politician, Hsieh said he was ready to face political persecution and to testify in court for various legal cases implicating him after he stepped down as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman.

He said he was under police surveillance and his telephone was tapped, as were his bodyguards and aides’ phones.

“It showed that I did not enjoy any privileges when the DPP was in power and nobody protected me,” he said.

He also criticized certain media outlets and TV talk shows for acting as judges before the court has handed down a ruling.

Meanwhile, the DPP yesterday urged the Ministry of Justice to probe the allegations and asked the media to get to the bottom of the matter.

Emphasizing that the judiciary was crucial in a democracy, DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said that it would be a significant blow to the judicial system if the allegations proved to be true.

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) yesterday promised lawmakers that she would get to the bottom of the matter.

“This case has seriously damaged the reputation of prosecutors,” Wang told lawmakers yesterday morning, referring to Chen Chu’s remarks.

Chen Chu, quoting Tsai’s statements in court, said Chen Tsung-ming, who was then head of the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office, allegedly asked Prosecutor Wang Bang-an (王邦安) to “indict a few defendants anyway.”

Wang Bang-an told Tsai, who then repeated Wang Bang-an’s remarks in court during the appeal.

The four officials were CLA Foreign Labor Section chief Liao Wei-jen (廖為仁), deputy Liu Hsing-tai (劉興台), Lin Yu-sheng (林祐生) and Hung Yi-nan (洪一男).

They were indicted by Wang Bang-an on charges of corruption in 2006, but the court dropped all charges on March 3 this year after Tsai made his remarks in court.

Wang Ching-feng said that she spoke to Chen Tsung-ming and Wang Bang-an on Wednesday night right after learning of Chen Chu’s remarks. But both Chen Tsung-ming and Wang Bang-an denied the allegations.

“Deputy Minister Wu Chen-huan (吳陳鐶) will chair a special investigation task force to investigate and see who is lying,” Wang Ching-feng said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus officials yesterday also called on the ministry to investigate the allegations against the state prosecutor-general.

“We hereby urge the Ministry of Justice to take immediate action [to deal with the allegations]. In the meantime, we do not rule out the possibility of inviting ministry personnel to explain the matter to the caucus,” KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) told a press conference.

KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) said political interference might have also affected more cases. He urged the justice minister to refer the allegations against Chen Tsung-ming to the ministry’s Department of Government Employee Ethics for investigation. Chen Chu, who served and stepped down as head of the CLA when the scandal broke, said she felt angry about the injustice done to the indicted officials.

“After I read the verdict, I felt that they [the indicted personnel] were actually very good government officials. The law finally proved their innocence,” she said after a city government administrative meeting yesterday morning.

She cited official statistics, saying that 10,998 government officials were indicted on charges of corruption between 2000 and last year, but only 2,482, or 20 percent, of them were found guilty.

“The innocent and their family members all suffered tremendously during the trials,” she said.

She added she was afraid that she would lose her rights again one day if the nation’s justice system continues to “deteriorate.”