Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Corrupt Official or Political Prisoner? Let the Law Decide

Corrupt Official or Political Prisoner? Let the Law Decide
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 12, 2008

Yesterday, former President Chen Shui-bian was arrested and handcuffed. The shocking images were unprecedented in the history of our nation. His arrest has become the focus of media attention at home and abroad. Chen Shui-bian may rail about political persecution. The ruling and opposition camps may attack each other. But from this moment forward, let the justice system do the talking. Please respect the independence of the judiciary.

Prosecutors have been investigating the First Family's corruption for some time. Cases under investigation include the State Affairs Expenses scandal, the Secret Diplomacy scandal, the Swiss government's revelations of secret accounts for the purpose of money-laundering, and the Nankang Exhibition Hall scandal. The cases snowballed, and the pressure to prosecute intensified. First Family members were questioned one after the other. Former Presidential Office Accountant Chen Cheng-hui, Tsai Ming-Jer, a crony of Wu Shu-chen, former Presidential Office Director Lin Teh-hsiung, Ma Yung-cheng, Wu Shu-chen's brother Wu Jingmao, former Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien, former Bureau of Investigation Chief Yeh Sheng-mao, and former Secretary-General of the National Security Council Chiou I-jen, have all been arrested, Step by step the dragnet has been tightened, until Chen Shui-bian has finally been brought to justice and forced to account for the flagrant corruption during his term of office.

Chen Shui-bian knew full well that prosecutors were closing in on him. His counter-strategy is to politicize a purely criminal matter. He has repeatedly traveled about the island seeking grass-roots support. He has affected the posture of a heroic martyr in an effort to provoke controversy. He has attempted to create the impression that he is a political prisoner. He has spun his prosecution for corruption as political persecution by the KMT and the CCP. He has boasted that he is willing to "bear a cross" for Taiwan, and to enter the "Bastille" for the sake of Taiwan. Yesterday, when he was arrested, he deliberately exposed the handcuffs on his wrists and shouted "political persecution" and "Long Live Taiwan." He alleged that he was beaten by the police. These ploys are merely intended to make the outside world believe he is a political prisoner, instead of a corrupt, money-grubbing former official.

Today's Taiwan is completely different from the Taiwan that existed when he entered the Tucheng Detention Center years ago. It is different in its democratic development and different in the professionalism and autonomy of its prosecutors and criminal investigators. For Chen to boast that he is a political prisoner, is an insult to the island's democracy and rule of law. It also underestimates the intelligence of the public on Taiwan.

The Taiwan Development Corporation scandal and the State Affairs Fund scandal erupted during President Chen Shui-bian's term of office. The Special Investigative Unit was also established during his administration. Yet Yeh Sheng-mao helped Chen suppress the report on his secret bank accounts issued by the Egmont Group, the international anti-money-laundering organization. Rank and file prosecutors may not have always been on the same page in in their ongoing investigations. Their procedures may have been controversial. But at least the judiciary was finally independent, and no longer a political tool for those in power.

Chen Shui-bian's survival strategy is to transform his criminal prosecution into a political conflict. He knows his legal defense is full of holes. Therefore he needs to incite political conflict. If the cost to society is high enough, prosecutors may seek a political solution. One can safely predict that he will continue to act out the part of a victim of political persecution.

But events may not follow Chen Shui-bian's plan. Chen Shui-bian's influence expanded with the October 25 protest march. But with the siege of ARATS President Chen Yunlin in Taipei, Chen Shui-bian's marginalization within the Green Camp had begun. The focus returned to the KMT vs. DPP struggle over cross-strait relations, to whether the police used excessive force, to whether the Assembly and Parade Law should be amended, and to the "Wild Strawberry" student protest. Chen Shui-bian tried to get in on the game, but he had already lost his place at the table.

Moreover, after this battle, the Green Camp had already validated DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's status as Green Camp leader. Pan Green masses anxious about the loss of "Taiwanese" sovereignty no longer needed to rely on Chen Shui-bian. The next confrontation and dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties, will be between the KMT and DPP. This will be the basic political framework on Taiwan for the near future. Chen Shui-bian's attempt to hijack public sentiment and to set the political agenda died, stillborn. The students rejected Chen Shui-bian's attempt to hitch a ride on their bandwagon. The Democratic Progressive Party has even less intention of bearing the Chen family cross. It refuses to lend further assistance to Chen Shui-bian. Unless Chen Shui-bian can latch onto some other issue, he has shot his wad.

Prosecutors and investigators have been investigating and even arresting Green Camp people at an acceleratd rate. Case information that should have remained confidential has been leaked. Fact and rumor are often hard to discern. On the one hand, this has led to trial by media. On the one hand, this has given some the feeling that the long arm of the law is suddenly descending upon them. Memories of past persecution and today's reality overlap, and suddenly it's yesterday once more. The Democratic Progressive Party has called upon the judiciary to safeguard human rights. This is a reasonable request. The proper authorities should immediately investigate leaks from prosecutors and investigators. Suspects are innocent until proven guilty. This principle applies to everyone, including Chen Shui-bian.

Taiwan is truly different from what it was in the past. Political persecution is a thing of the past. Under the close watch of the people as a whole, law enforcement officials should be able to prosecute cases without having to look over their shoulders. Investigative and evidentiary procedures must be above reproach. They must be acceptable to all walks of life. Each case must meet the requirements of justice. They must be handled according to due process. Prosecuting Chen Shui-bian will take time. Since it is a criminal case, the courts alone have a say in the matter. This is Lesson One in our class on the rule of law.

中國時報  2008.11.12
貪汙犯或政治犯 請讓司法講話


檢 調偵辦第一家庭弊案已有相當時日,繼國務機要費案、機密外交案之後,瑞士祕密洗錢帳戶曝光,南港展覽館弊案更傳出收賄情事。隨著案件愈爆愈多、案情愈滾愈 大,第一家庭成員陸續被約談,前總統府出納陳鎮慧、吳淑珍友人蔡銘哲、前總統辦公室主任林德訓、馬永成、吳淑珍兄長吳景茂、前內政部長余政憲、調查局長葉 盛茂、前國安會祕書長邱義仁等紛紛遭到收押,在一步步收網下,接著陳水扁當然必須直接面對司法,也面對在他任內因他的職權而發生的許多不法貪瀆案件。

而 陳水扁也很清楚,檢調偵辦的動作正逐漸向他逼近,而他選擇以政治手段來反擊。在頻頻前往基層進行「取暖之旅」時,他擺出悲壯形象,以各種煽動說詞,力圖塑 造這是一場政治黑獄的印象,把司法動作解釋為國共聯手迫害他。但他願意為台灣揹十字架,進入台灣的「巴士底獄」。昨天在遭到聲押時,他還故意高舉手上的手 銬,大喊「政治迫害」、「台灣加油」,又聲稱遭到警察毆打。這些動作,無非是為了讓外界相信他是一個受難的政治犯,而不是一個A錢的貪汙犯。


何 況,之前的台開案和國務機要費案,都是在陳水扁擔任總統的任內爆發,特偵組也是在他任內成立,甚至葉盛茂還為他掩蓋國際艾格蒙反洗錢組織通報祕密帳戶的 事。在這種狀況下,基層檢調人員持續的偵辦動作,看得出對司法獨立有其自主堅持,儘管各單位的步調手法未必齊一,程序也可能有些爭議處,但至少已不再是昔 日受政治指揮的工具了。


但 事情的發展未必會照著陳水扁的如意算盤,最近的跡象顯示,原本在一○二五大遊行時聲勢大漲的陳水扁,到了大陸海協會會長陳雲林來台及圍城行動後,在反對陣 營中反而開始邊緣化。因為議題主軸回到國民黨與民進黨的兩岸路線角力、警方執法過當、集遊法修正與學生發起野草莓運動,陳水扁雖試圖參一腳,但主戰場裡已 沒有他的空間了。

而且,經此一役,民進黨主席蔡英文的領導地位獲得綠營群眾的認可,焦慮於主權流失的群眾不必再依靠陳水扁,接下來的朝野 對抗及對話,都會重回國、民兩黨的互動,這將是未來一段時間裡台灣政治運作的主要架構。陳水扁想偷走民氣與議題主導權的企圖,因而也隨之破功。學生拒絕陳 水扁表態插花,民進黨更無意再扛扁家這個十字架,缺乏進一步奧援的陳水扁,除非能再找到其他切入議題,否則會面臨資源開始耗竭的困境。

最 近檢調偵辦乃至收押綠營人士的動作頻仍,原本應該偵查不公開的資訊也不斷流出,真假難辨下,一方面形成未審先判的媒體現象,一方面又讓有些人有司法之網突 然鋪天蓋地而來之感。昔日司法迫害的記憶和今日的情景重疊,彷彿昨日重現。民進黨呼籲維護司法人權,這是很合理的要求,偵辦資訊外流的問題,有關單位確實 應該立即檢討防堵。未定罪前都是清白的,這個原則是每個人應有的權利,陳水扁也一樣。

然而,真的,台灣已經和過去不一樣了,政治辦案與司 法迫害都已走入歷史。在全體國人的嚴格注視下,司法人員應該有充分獨立自主的辦案空間,而偵辦程序、蒐證、調查是否周延確實,在法律上立於不敗,也必須接 受各界評判。各個案件都應回歸司法,由司法單位依法處理。扁案的訴訟程序還會拖很久,既然是司法案件,就只有司法有權說話,這是台灣邁入民主法治的第一 課。

No comments: