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June 29, 2017

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Fresh bail hearing for Keelung speaker

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwan High Court yesterday reprimanded a district court over its decision to release Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai on bail despite a strong corruption case made against him by prosecutors.

The high court ordered the Keelung District Court to hold a fresh bail hearing to decide whether the speaker should be remanded into custody as demanded by prosecutors.

It was the second time Keelung district prosecutors secured the high court's orders last week in favor of a bid to have Huang detained to facilitate a corruption probe.

The district court first freed Huang on a NT$1.2 million bond, prompting prosecutors to file an appeal to the high court. But the district court only raised the bond to NT$2 million Friday in response to the high court's order that it reconsider the bail decision.

Handing down its ruling on the prosecutors' second appeal against the Friday decision, the high court faulted the district court for failing to carefully look into the case presented by prosecutors.

The high court said the district court had also ignored the reasons indicated in its previous ruling as to why it had upheld the prosecutors' first appeal.

Huang, who has been nominated by the ruling Kuomintang in the Keelung mayoral election, is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a construction company Jaysanlyn (JSL) Group in return for help in a development project.

Huang then allegedly forced some civil servants in the Keelung City Government to bend the building code to benefit JSL.

The prosecutors have yet to conclude their probe and formally indict the speaker and other suspects.

The district court has argued that Huang's alleged involvement in the corruption case is not as serious as alleged by the prosecutors.

It holds that the speaker and the other civil servants allegedly involved are not "accomplices." It claims the prosecutors have failed to provide evidence that Huang abused his authority as speaker to seek undue profits.

It has also dismissed the prosecutors' concerns that Huang could flee the country to avoid trial.

The high court said the district court seems to have already jumped to conclusions and ignored the reasons why suspects must be remanded into custody at some points in an investigation.

The Keelung District Prosecutors Office stressed ahead of the high court's ruling on the second appeal that the bail hearing must focus on whether the investigation may be undermined if the suspect is not detained. The bail hearing is not about proving whether the suspect is indeed guilty of not, the prosecutors' office said.

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