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Legal tug-of-war over truck attacker continues

TAIPEI--The Taiwan High Court asked the Taipei District Court yesterday to reconsider its latest decision to reject a request by prosecutors to detain a man who rammed a gravel truck into the front gate of the Presidential Office on Jan. 25.

The ruling continued the tug-of-war between prosecutors and the suspect's lawyers over whether the gravel truck driver, Chang Teh-cheng, should be detained.

Sunday's ruling was the fourth time that the high court has returned the case to the Taipei District Court for it to reconsider the decision to release Chang on bail.

In its first two rulings, the district court freed Chang on his own recognizance. In its following two rulings, the court ruled that Chang could be released, first on bail of NT$150,000 and then on bail of NT$300,000.

Prosecutors, who want Chang detained, have appealed all four rulings, and the Taiwan High Court has asked the lower court to reconsider its decision every time.

The High Court argued in its ruling Sunday that there were three attacks in the past targeting the Presidential Office, and in all three cases, which were minor compared with the latest incident, the court ruled that the suspect should be detained.

Whether (the lower court's decision) conforms to the principle of judicial fairness under criminal procedures and earn the public's trust in the principle of judicial fairness “could be subject to doubts,” the court said.

The three precedents cited by the court were a man who fired his signal gun at the wall of the Presidential Office on July 27, 2006; a man who attempted to burn a PET bottle filled with 1.5 liters of gasoline on July 7, 2003; and another man who wanted to follow the President's motorcade into the Presidential Office on Aug. 28, 2003.

The 41-year-old Chang was hospitalized on Jan. 25 after he ran his empty gravel truck up the steps of the Presidential Office.

He was found injured and unconscious in the driver's seat and rushed to National Taiwan University Hospital by military policeman guarding the building. No one else was injured in the incident.

President Ma Ying-jeou was on an overseas trip at the time.

Prosecutors first sought to have the man detained immediately after he was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 29, citing the seriousness of the potential charges, including attempted murder.

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