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Dean extradition trial sparks Taiwan human rights debate

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Seized fugitive Zain Dean, the British businessman who fled Taiwan to avoid a four-year sentence for a hit-and-run death in Taipei City, awaits a ruling by Edinburgh's Sheriff Court to determine if he will be extradited to Taiwan.

Dean's lawyer in the UK — backed by human rights activist Linda Gail Arrigo — argued in a two-day hearing ending yesterday that Dean suffered an unfair trial that was railroaded by tabloid media coverage and police corruption. To many Taiwanese convinced of his guilt, this is a stinging rebuke to an island that prides itself as the first Chinese democracy since ending martial law in 1987, and whose popular uprisings, such as the 228 Massacre, were fathered by grassroots efforts to redress the courts.

"Taiwan's judicial system is not on trial," Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), Taiwan's representative to the UK, told The China Post. "[Dean's lawyer] can argue human rights, but we made it clear to all parties involved that he had a fair trial in Taiwan."

What constitutes fairness in a trial, however, is a rather contentious issue to legal scholars in Taiwan, where fierce loyalties to schools of thought run deep. The young, modern courts reflect this polarization, dangerously caught between two antagonistic legal systems that may be compromising justice, according to Kao Jung-chih (高榮志), executive director of the Justice Reform Foundation.

The architects of Taiwan's modern judicial system, which lacks a jury system, drew inspiration from Japan and Germany, whose systems pit an interrogating judge against the defendant and witnesses. But in 2003, inspired by the so-called Hsichih (汐止) trio, who were tortured into confessions, lawmakers passed a radical overhaul introducing a prosecutor-versus-defendant system used in the U.S., which limits the judge's role while elevating due process and the rights of the accused.

Judges — who are selected by rote examination with no courtroom experience — are struggling under the new system, and teeter between their new and old roles, often creating an intrinsic bias, Kao said. "In Taiwan, most defendants have been assumed guilty until the defendants prove they are not."

January 10, 2014    curtisakbar@
It is always suspect in a country with a single person acting as judge and jury whether the system is fair. But in Taiwan, I wouldn't expect the average Joe to have enough commonsense to be an impartial juror and base decisions on facts rather than media hype.
January 10, 2014    taipeir2001@
I wouldn't like the idea of a jury system in Taiwan.
First you'd have to educate them on what is a real justice system and innocence before guilt...impartiality according to status and color...all that kind of stuff.

I would trust the regular person less than the professionals.
January 12, 2014    Upwell @
curtisakbar@ wrote:
It is always suspect in a country with a single person acting as judge and jury whether the system is fair. But in Taiwan, I wouldn't expect the average Joe to have enough commonsense to be an impartial juror and base decisions on facts rather than media hype.
Why single out Taiwan? Lots of countries in the English speaking world have criminal trials presided by a judge sitting alone to decide both facts and law. The average citizen of those countries equally as you put it, probably lacked "common sense"!!
January 12, 2014    Strongenglish@
Hatred of foreigners is central to Chinese culture. In this trial there were many videos available of the scene. Everyone who has lived in Taiwan knows there are cameras everywhere, EVERYWHERE. The judge refused to allow the videos. What was he hiding? The Brit wanted the videos shown. The judge was dishonest and refused to let in the videos, probably because they would exculpate the Brit? Taiwan democracy is a joke. Chen faked his shooting and it was so obvious. But authority worship trumps truth in Chinese culture. And hatred of foreigners trumps everything. Taiwanese even hate Americans even though today TW would still be part of Japan except for USA. Dean was right to flee.
June 11, 2014    hutchingsjm@
It's a sad day when 1 judge can make of break a man. The guy was either set up or framed. My missus and the whole family looked at me stern faced through dinner today as though I was on trial. This shows how the press can manipulate peoples' opinions and pit nation against nation when the judge refuses to see all the evidence.
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