The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized the Taipei District Court’s decision early yesterday to again detain former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) ahead of his trial on corruption charges, saying the government should make it clear whether politics were involved in the decision.
The Taipei District Court made the announcement following a marathon 12-hour hearing on Monday.
Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) announced at 2:20am yesterday that Chen would be detained, but the court would not prohibit him from seeing visitors.
The former president, who was last detained on Nov. 12, was released on Dec. 13 following his indictment along with 13 other individuals on charges of embezzlement, corruption and money laundering.
“The court decided to detain Chen because the crimes he is allegedly involved in involve serious corruption, and the court suspected Chen might flee the country or collude with suspects and witnesses in the case if he remained free. The court decided it would be hard to prosecute Chen if he was not kept in custody,” Taipei District Court spokesman Huang Chun-min (黃俊明) told a press conference.
Responding to the court’s decision, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that the government and the judicial authorities should explain to the public why they felt it necessary to detain Chen ahead of his trial.
“The detention and handcuffing of Chen ahead of his trail may have violated the Constitution,” Tsai said.
She said the government should clear up doubts on whether the change of judges before Chen’s trial was a result of political pressure.
If the government failed to clear up those doubts, people could become uneasy about the verdict, Tsai said.
Chen’s office yesterday said his lawyers would appeal the court’s decision.
The office criticized the decision to re-detain Chen, saying it once again highlighted the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s efforts to wage judicial persecution and a political vendetta against the former president.
“The former president may not get a fair and transparent trial, but justice will be served at the courts of the Taiwanese people, human conscience and history,” a statement by the office said. “The Ma administration has made aggressive efforts to detain the former president with the sole purpose of defaming the joint effort of Taiwanese to pursue democracy and sovereignty.”
The statement denounced the Taipei District Court for violating judicial independence and depriving Chen of the right to a fair trial.
“A new dictatorial regime wearing the coat of justice is taking shape,” the statement said. “Anyone who dares to challenge the Ma administration’s unification path or the Chinese Nationalist Party’s [KMT] ruling power will find prosecutors and the courts launching a war against them, trampling on the freedom, democracy and justice Taiwanese are so proud of.”
The statement also denounced the new presiding judge, saying his argument for Chen’s custody was nothing but a show cooked up for the purpose of sending him back to prison.
With security details in place 24 hours a day, the office said it would like to know how Chen could escape, as prosecutors had claimed. Besides, it said, Chen would not abandon his wheelchair-bound wife, who is in bad health. Chen has also answered every subpoena and never showed signs of wanting to flee since he was released from custody on Dec. 12, the statement said.
It added that it was unnecessary to detain Chen because he had never attempted to collude with witnesses or destroy evidence.
While prosecutors could not produce any solid evidence to prove their claims, the statement said, their arguments were merely subjective hypothesis based on the assumption that Chen was guilty.
The statement slammed the court for ignoring human rights and ignoring the presumption of a suspect’s innocence until proven guilty, therefore treating the accused like a criminal.
The office also questioned the impartiality of Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), who they said was not only “arrogant” but also “blind.”
The statement said that Wang pressured State Public Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), who then compelled the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) to publicly announce that they would quit if they could not close the case.
Wang also turned a blind eye to a Control Yuan member questioning SIP prosecutors and asking them to detain Chen, the statement said.
More serious was that Wang had reported on Chen’s case to KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), it said.
When asked for comment, KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) applauded the court’s detention of Chen.
“The court’s decision to detain Chen Shui-bian was the best possible gift to the public before year’s end. All of the witnesses [in the case] no longer need to be afraid,” Lee said.
Lee said that former presiding judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春), who decided to free the former president in the first of two previous court proceedings, should feel “embarrassed.”
Chou was replaced last Thursday as the lead judge following a ballot by Taipei District Court judges in a move that pan-green figures allege was the result of political pressure.
The Taiwan High Court on Sunday ordered the Taipei District Court to reconsider its Dec. 18 decision confirming Chen’s release.
The High Court made the order following an appeal filed by the SIP on Thursday against the district court decision confirming his release.
It was the second time the SIP had succeeded in having the Taiwan High Court call for a review of the Taipei District Court’s decision.
The first was when the SIP filed an appeal with the High Court on Dec. 17, after which the latter ordered the district court to reconsider the release.
During Monday’s hearing, Chen Shui-bian said his son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚), both indicted for corruption and money laundering in connection with the case, had filed a document to prosecutors in the middle of this month saying they would like to clear up any misunderstanding about the NT$570 million (US$17 million) in the pair’s overseas bank accounts and help prosecutors to repatriate the money.
However, the SIP has not responded to their offer, Chen Shui-bian said.
Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南), spokesman for the SIP, said the couple should make the offer in a plea bargain during the trial now that they have been indicted.
Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) are accused of siphoning off NT$104 million from a special Presidential Office discretionary fund during his presidency from 2000 to May of this year.
They are also charged with accepting bribes worth NT$100 million and NT$200 million in connection with a land procurement deal and another NT$90.93 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win the tender for a government construction project.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG AND CNA
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