The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office has indicted former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on charges of leaking secret information and inciting others to leak secret information. Still, prior to a news conference announcing the decision, no one knew anything about the status of the investigation, not to mention any detailed information.
Before a release announcing the news conference was issued, the media did not know whether Ma was going to be indicted. It is clear that the investigation was conducted fully in line with Article 245 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), which states that “an investigation shall not be public.”
This is praiseworthy, but the same standard should be applied to all cases if the government is to rebuild public trust in prosecutors and their ability to remain neutral.
People remember the 2012 Yu Chang Biologics (宇昌) case, which involved the National Development Fund falsifying documents and initiating a smear campaign against then-presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and how certain media published reports, including materials from the Special Investigation Division’s (SID) probe into the allegations. Although the SID concluded that Tsai was innocent, officials seemed to ignore the legal requirement that an investigation shall not be public.
When prosecutors were investigating officials from the previous administration after the transition of power in 2008, there similarly was no attempt to follow the rule that an investigation shall not be public.
For example, almost every stage of the investigation into the actions of former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) was reported, and even humiliating photographs of Chiu with his head shaved following his detention found their way into the hands of the media.
Although the court concluded that Chiu was innocent, the media had already helped prosecutors humiliate Chiu.
Another example is the way in which details of an investigation into the Ministry of National Defense and almost every statement by former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) found its way into the media during an investigation into bribery in connection with the promotion of officers.
Once again, nothing illegal was found to have occurred, but the authority of Tsai and other high officers had been irreparably damaged.
The investigation resulting in Ma’s indictment followed the regulation that investigations should not be made public. This is a legal principle that should be applied to everyone.
There should be no difference, regardless of whether you belong to the pan-blue camp or the pan-green camp, nor should it have anything to do with your social status — the Mama Mouth Cafe murders and the murder of a 22-year-old model, surnamed Chen (陳), spring to mind.
No ongoing investigation should be made public — this is not a rule that can be selectively applied.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.
Translated by Perry Svensson
To our readers: Because of the Lunar New Year holiday, from Saturday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 29, the Taipei Times will have a reduced format without our regular editorials and opinion pieces. From Saturday to Tuesday it will not be delivered to subscribers, but will be available for purchase at convenience stores. Subscribers will receive the editions they missed once normal distribution resumes on Wednesday, Jan. 25. The paper returns to its usual format on Monday, Jan. 30, when our regular editorials and opinion pieces will also be resumed.