Former President Chen, his wife, and a horde of co-defendants were acquitted this week on bribery charges.
Citing insufficient proof, the Tapei District Court yesterday acquitted former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), of charges that they laundered money and took bribes from bankers in exchange for help manipulating bank mergers.
Nineteen co-defendants were also cleared of charges of money laundering, breach of trust and insider trading because of a lack of proof, Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) said yesterday afternoon.
Chou’s ruling added that since the money the Chen family received was not a bribe, bank officials who later helped the family transfer the funds overseas therefore did not violate money laundering rules, because money laundering only takes place when transferring money resulting from crime or corruption.Note what the prosecutor's spokesman said:
SIP Spokesman Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達) said the “verdict is against the public’s concept of the law” and that prosecutors would appeal to the Taiwan High Court."Against the public's concept of the law." What an interesting take on it -- not against the law, or unconstitutional, or an ethical violation. Nope, the public doesn't like it, so it must be appealed. Since when does public opinion decide court cases?
But let's recall -- how was public opinion in this case even constructed? Oh yeah -- the infamous skit that showed Chen Shui-bian as an AIDS victim. Remember that? The Ministry said it was OK because it reflected the sentiment on the island. And then there were the leaks about the case from the prosecutors, which caused the local judicial reform foundation to slam the prosecutors back in Dec of 2008. And remember when 8 prosecutors called a press conference to announce that they would pursue the Chen case to get a conviction right to the bitter end, which I said at the time was basically an admission that they had no evidence? Then there was the flow of new charges... This constant churning of the media by the prosecutors, as well as the baying for Chen's blood in the pro-KMT press, has of course had a profound effect on public opinion. "Trial by media," the South China Morning Post, no friend of the DPP, called it. But the prosecutors citing public opinion in their appeal, the public opinion that they themselves helped nurture through their own questionable actions, is surely a new low.
Meanwhile, another important function of Chen Shui-bian was on display as the KMT called on voters to express their disapproval of the verdict by voting KMT.
Reaction to former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) acquittal in a bribery trial appeared to fall along political lines yesterday, with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) mayoral candidates urging voters to show their discontent with the ruling with their ballots on Nov. 27, while their Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opponents played down the case.Nice try, but I doubt that Chen will have much effect on the voters come Nov. 27. The KMT has chosen to keep him in jail and muzzled, meaning that he cannot impact the public's perception of the DPP, nor hog the limelight, nor sour light Greens and independents on voting DPP, nor change the focus of the voters on the KMT's performance to whatever Chen Shui-bian has done. Once again, thanks, KMT, for giving Tsai the breathing space to consolidate the DPP.
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