The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) on Tuesday vowed to file an extraordinary appeal with the Supreme Court on behalf of Talum, a 56-year-old Bunun hunter sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on weapons possession and poaching charges.
The council issued the promise after a protest by the Alliance of Taiwanese Aboriginal Youths earlier in the day outside the Ministry of Justice in Taipei, which called for a suspension of Talum’s sentence and for Prosecutor-General Yen Ta-ho (顏大和) to file an extraordinary appeal for him.
Talum, a member of the Bunun people in Taitung County’s Haiduan Township (海端), was arrested after he hunted Formosan serows and Reeves’ muntjacs with a shotgun in July 2013, which he said was to furnish meat for his mother, a nonagenarian.
Despite claiming that as an Aborigine he has the right to own a firearm and hunt, Talum was charged for breaches of the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) and the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) by the Taitung District Prosecutors’ Office, found guilty by a district court and sentenced to serve three-and-a-half years in prison.
On Oct. 29, the Supreme Court ruled against Talum in his appeal and notified him that he is to begin serving his sentence from Tuesday next week.
The courts involved in Talum’s case handed down “excessively harsh” judgements to an Aborigine according to an “unreasonable” application of the law, said Chou Han-wei (周漢威), an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation, which is representing Talum on behalf of the Council of Indigenous Peoples.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was based on its understanding that Talum’s hunt was not performed as part of an Aboriginal ritual and was therefore not covered by provisions for legitimate hunting in the Wildlife Conservation Act, Chou said.
Furthermore, the ruling said that since Talum came into possession of the shotgun used in the hunt through an accidental discovery, his ownership of the firearm was not covered by exceptions for Aboriginal gun ownership in the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act, which specifies that legal firearms owned by Aborigines must be “homemade shotguns,” Chou said.
Although the Supreme Court’s verdict is final, the council said it would use “the greatest possible effort” to assist Talum, up to and including filing for an extraordinary appeal with the court through the Legal Aid Foundation demanding that it rule on the constitutionality of the statutes.
“Hunting shotguns have, in addition to their economic utility, a deep significance in Aboriginal cultures … hunting is an activity with profound symbolic meaning to Aboriginal cultures,” the council said.
“In order to fully exercise their right to hunt, Aborigines require the use of guns... A balance should be made between the traditional hunting cultures of Aboriginal communities and modern society,” it said, calling on the judicial system to “show due respect to the traditional cultures of Aborigines.”
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