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Legislators may seek constitutional interpretation in defector case

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Two Control Yuan members yesterday said they could file for constitutional interpretation to determine whether the statute of limitations for the treason case of Justin Lin (林毅夫), a Taiwanese national who defected to China more than 30 years ago, has expired or not.

Control Yuan members Yeh Yao-peng (葉耀鵬) and Li Ful-dien (李復甸) yesterday said they have different opinions than the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on whether or not Lin should be allowed to come back to Taiwan.

According to an investigative report the two released yesterday, they believe that the MND has seriously lapsed in not lifting an arrest order on Lin because the statute of limitations — which sets the period of prosecution at 20 years for defection to an enemy state — has passed.

The military has deliberately chosen not to address the issue of the statute of limitations on Lin's case for decades, seriously damaging Lin's human rights, they said.

However, the MND and the MOJ believe that Lin should continue to be on the wanted list because his defection to China in 1979 has never ceased, they said.

The two Control Yuan members argued that the Taiwan government should lift the arrest order on Lin to protect his human rights.

“Since we have different opinions on the statute of limitations in this case, we believe it is only appropriate for us to file a request for constitutional interpretation with the Council of Grand Justices,” Yeh said.

Lee stressed that they brought up the case not to assist a deserter but on humanitarian grounds.

Lin's Defection

On May 16, 1979, Lin, then a Taiwanese Army captain stationed on the outlying frontline island of Kinmen, swam across the Taiwan Strait to the mainland.

Lin later studied economics at Peking University before becoming a world-renowned economist. He was appointed to be the senior vice president of the World Bank in 2008.

For decades, the MND insisted that Lin is still a fugitive wanted on treason charges and has reiterated its stance that it would not lift the arrest order on Lin even though Lin has repeatedly urged Taiwan to allow him to come home on humanitarian grounds.

Defection to an enemy state is punishable by death, life imprisonment or a minimum of 10 years in prison, according to the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces.

The jurisdiction over Lin's case was handed over to the MOJ this January as part of an overhaul in the court martial system.

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