Lots of good news out of the court system this week. First, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen, one of the DPPers swept up in the wave of political prosecutions during the waning months of 2008, was found innocent of accepting a bribe:
Su had faced charges of accepting NT$5 million (US$174,845) in bribes to speed up approval of a landfill in the county by skipping an environmental assessment. Prosecutors had argued for a 15-year sentence and an eight-year suspension of civil rights.The arrest of Su, who had a reputation for integrity, was especially outrageous and one was of a series of events that prompted the first Open Letter from Scholars on the situation in Taiwan. Jon Adams had a good article on the arrests at the time.
“There’s nothing happy about this ruling today. I have been innocent from the start in this case,” Su somberly told hundreds of supporters after the verdict was announced. “I have never accepted even one dollar in bribes.”
Suggesting that the decision relied on testimony from a key witness, Su said that she would like to thank a special person that “stood as firm as a mountain.”
“There are many things that I will not be able to disclose publicly, but I would like to especially thank a special friend,” Su said. “I especially express gratitude to you and am especially thankful for you.”
The ruling was keenly watched after Su and other DPP politicians said that prosecutors were on a “political witch hunt” to find misconduct connected to the Yunlin County commissioner.
(Parenthetically, the KMT's recent obsession with Nat Bellocchi, whose name appeared first on the list of signatories of the most recent letter, took another twist this week with a hit piece from a KMTer who is a retired envoy to Washington. As I noted when the first KMT attacks came out, Bellocchi's name is first on the list not because he is the sinister leader of events but because the list is in alphabetical order. D'oh! And if you examine that list in the first letter, his name is there first as well. D'oh! One could do a PhD thesis on what this reveals about KMT attitudes toward the US.)
At the same time Chen Shui-bian was found not guilty of embezzling $330,000 from the special diplomatic funds in the third and final appeal. Prosecutors went 0-3 on that one. The first time he lost they claimed an acquittal was "against the public's conception of the law." This has been a consistent KMT strategy -- try the cases in the media, then claim that the DPPers lost there to put pressure on judges, then when the judiciary acquits, claim that the courts have disappointed the public. As I noted way back when:
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.The second act of this trial-by-media approach is to use the attacks on DPPers to whip up votes for the KMT.
Remember what the judge said about the diplomatic affairs case? Just in case you've forgotten, let's refresh your memory:
Chen was indicted Sept. 22, 2009 for withholding US$30,000 from a sum of US$100,000 given to him by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for discretionary spending during each of his 11 overseas trips as president between August 2000 and September 2006.This means that, in addition to a couple of cases still pending, Chen is in jail for two things -- accepting a bribe from Diana Chen case (see this post) and the Koo family land case bribe. The Koos were in court last week in connection with a different case when this came out.
The prosecutors charged in the indictment that Chen wired the funds -- a total of US$330,000 -- to his son Chen Chih-chung, who was studying in the United States at the time.
But the judges dismissed the indictment as "a shoddy mishmash of evidence without a morsel of credibility."
They said the prosecutors contradicted themselves by claiming in their indictment that the spending of the allowances was "totally under the control of the Foreign Ministry and the president had no say in the matter, " but in the same breath, the indictment said that "the allowances were meant to finance the president's unexpected spending on state affairs."
The judges also criticized the prosecutors for using the testimony of Wu Wang-hsia, mother of ex-first lady Wu Shu-jen, against her daughter, despite being fully aware that Wu Wang-hsia was not of sound mind and actually misidentified her son as her husband occasionally in her deposition.
Furthermore, the judges said, there were long gaps between the times Chen Shui-bian wired funds to Chen Chih-chung and the times he allegedly embezzled the diplomatic funds, making the prosecutors' claims allegedly embezzled the diplomatic funds, making the prosecutors' claims that the ex-president used the diplomatic funds to finance his son's studies
台灣高等法院昨天開庭審理中信金控前副董事長辜仲諒的紅火案，律師陳明、金延華均作證指出，紅火公司獲利的新台幣三億元並未流進陳水扁家，因辜仲諒擔心返台被押，才會幫辜做出不實陳報狀。Don't read Chinese? It says that a $300 million NT bribe that was allegedly given to the Chen Shui-bian family never went to them. Read the first page of this Commonwealth article to get a feel for the claim(s). Testimony in the Chen case was also collected from Jeffrey Koo, another Koo family scion, who was on the run from authorities, came back to Taiwan to "testify" in connection with the alleged bribe and was interrogated for two hours but notes only covered a half-hour, and then sent out of the country again. No deal was made, claimed prosecutors. Chen case coverage here.
David on Formosa offered an excellent post on the Su Chih-fen case with a statement from DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen:
Tsai Ing-wen posted the following comment on her Facebook page regarding the verdict in Su's case. My translation in English follows.In related news, the Taipei Times had another editorial on the revolting saga of the Hsichih trio.
今天下午，蘇治芬縣長在一審獲判無罪，在等待判決的這段期間，我相信雲林鄉親和我一樣，對蘇縣長個人能力、操守一直抱以高度的肯定和信任，現在司法還給蘇縣長清白，也還給所有的雲林鄉親一個公道，個人感到相當欣慰。同時，檢察系統動輒政治辦案，濫刑起訴、濫權收押，侵害人民司法人權的嚴重狀況，已經到了不得不全面檢討、改革的地步，這也將是未來我們推動司法改革的重點。][This afternoon Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen was found not guilty in the first hearing. During the period of waiting for the verdict I believe that the people of Yunlin County have always kept their trust in the ability and personal integrity of Su just like I have. The justice system has returned Su's state of innocence. It has also given the people of Yunlin County a sense of justice. Everybody can have a sense of feeling gratified.At the same time, the prosecutors have easily politicised cases, indiscriminately filed charges and excessively used pre-trial detention. The situation of judicial rights is serious and infringes on everyone. It has reached the point where there is no choice but to make the promotion of a comprehensive review and reform of the justice system a key focus in the future.]I was disappointed by Tsai's weak response to my question about the death penalty at the meeting last Saturday. However, her comments about judicial reform in response to another question were much more impressive. I think these comments show that Tsai realises judicial reform is a task of the utmost importance if she is elected to the presidency. However, despite her legal background this is a task that Tsai cannot complete on her own. She needs strong support from the legal community and all those who support human rights and justice in Taiwan.
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