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September 23, 2017

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Ma declines comment on Chen retrial

President Ma Ying-jeou and his re-election campaign yesterday declined to comment on the retrial of former President Chen Shui-bian and the new verdicts handed down by the Taiwan Supreme Court.

Spokesmen for the Presidential Office and Taiwan Bravo, as the president's reelection campaign is called, cited their respect for the judiciary when asked to comment on the retrial.

In the so-called "state funds" case, one of the three corruption cases retried yesterday, a collegiate bench of the Taiwan Supreme Court ruled that both Chen and his wife, sentenced in the first trial to life in prison, are not guilty of embezzling "state funds" in a secret account. Chen's wife, found guilty of forging documents, was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment.

In the other two cases, Chen and his family were also given lighter sentences than in previous trials.

Prosecutors to Appeal

However, claiming the public will have difficulty accepting the new sentences, the Special Investigation Division under the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors' Office yesterday vowed to appeal the verdicts.

Chief Prosecutor Lai Cheng-sheng (賴正聲) of the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors' Office, who has followed the trial, yesterday criticized the reductions in sentence for Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-jen from life in prison in the first trial, to 20 years in the second trial to finally 10 months in the Supreme Court retrial.

Lai added that he would study the court's justification for the lenient sentences meted out to Chen, his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law.

The verdicts should not be acceptable to society at large, said Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達), a prosecutor and director of the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors' Office, said, adding that four prosecutors will form a task force to study the court's rationale behind its lenient sentencing and will appeal to the Supreme Court as soon as possible.

The verdicts, while being censured on one side of the main political divide in Taiwan, were applauded on the other.

Debate Across Political Divide

After Chen was given the "not guilty" verdict, Chiu Yi (邱毅), a legislator from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), expressed his shock at the outcome of the retrial, which he said was a focus of world attention.

The justices have sold their souls to the devil, Chiu said, adding the country was now one in which "all are guilty except Chen and his family."

What is it if taking others' invoices to claim money from the "state funds" secret account for private use if it is not corruption, Chiu said. Chen really has many moles operating in the judiciary, Chiu concluded.

Politicians from the opposition the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however, described the verdicts as "justified," calling them "belated justice" for Chen and his family.

Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), convener of the DPP legislative caucus, said the verdicts were justified because all government leaders had de-criminalized special expenditure accounts.

Kao Chi-peng (高志鵬), another DPP lawmaker, agreed, accusing the KMT of deliberately not de-criminalizing it based on political calculations. There is no reason why former President Chen and his wife should bear the historical responsibility alone, Kao said.

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