Presidential Office to allow access to Chen documents

CLASSIFIED:Chen Shui-bian’s office has threatened to take legal action, questioning the right of the new president to declassify papers previously listed as confidential

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 3

The Presidential Office will not declassify documents concerning former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) controversial “state affairs fund,” but will give the court access to allow the legal proceeding to continue.

Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that Presidential Office Secretary-General Chan Chun-po (詹春柏) would soon send a letter of consent to court on behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

An official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that with the consent of the Presidential Office, the onus would be on the court to keep the classified documents secret during the proceeding, in accordance with the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法) and other decrees regulating secret trials.

With access to the documents, the court will be able to continue the proceeding, the official said, and President Ma would fully respect the judicial inquest into the matter.

”The decision is not a political maneuver,” he said. “Such a description is melodramatic.”

The court proceeding has been suspended since October after the Chen government said that documents pertaining to six diplomatic missions were classified material under the protection of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act and that prosecutors and the court should not be allowed to see them.

Prosecutors and the courts have asked the Presidential Office to declassify the documents in order to continue the trial. Chen’s office has threatened to take legal action if the documents are declassified, arguing that whether the new president has the right to declassify documents listed as confidential by previous presidents is a constitutional issue.

Chen was declared a defendant in the case shortly after his term ended on May 20. Taipei prosecutors indicted his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), in November 2006 on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the mishandling of Chen’s “state affairs fund.” Chen could not be charged at the time because of presidential immunity.

Wu is suspected of using receipts from a number of people to have personal expenses reimbursed from the fund between March 2002 and March 2006. Chen has claimed that the funds were used to conduct six secret diplomatic missions. But the prosecutors said that while two of the diplomatic missions were real, the suspects failed to offer any proof for the remaining four.

The Presidential Office official said yesterday that the decision to allow the court access to the documents sought to establish a constitutional precedent and represented a sign of respect for the judiciary.

This should allow the judiciary to perform its constitutional duty independently, he said.

Chen’s office said it would seek legal advice before making any comment.