Taipei judge demoted for saying Chen Shui-bian did not get a fair trial

Michael Richardson, Taiwan Policy Examiner

Su-Lin District Court in Taipei was led by Chief Justice Hong Yin-hua until an interview with the judge was published in the Liberty Times where she said that Chen Shui-bian did not get a fair trial. Chen, the former president of the Republic of China in-exile, is now serving a lengthy prison sentence for alleged corruption.

Chen went to jail soon after he left office and was convicted following a controversial trial. Judge Hong criticized Chen’s trial in the Taiwan news media and has been demoted from her position as Chief Justice for her public remarks.

Ironically, one of Judge Hong’s criticisms was the way in which Chen’s trial judge was selected. Judge Hong told the Liberty Times the selection process was contrary to customary procedure: “This decision gravely violates the principal of judicial independence and is unconstitutional.”

Judge Hong argues that Chen’s trial judge should have been selected by random draw instead of being handpicked, as was Judge Tsai Sho-shuin. Judge Hong said the “verdict was invalid from the start.”

Judge Hong said that Chen’s trial should have been heard by Judge Chou Chan-tsun who was the “legally assigned judge” and the principle of judicial independence has been violated.

In Judge Hong’s view, the trial of Chen, outside of established procedures, has created a constitutional crisis and she is duty-bound to speak out. Judge Hong said, “My public statements on this matter are within my right to free speech and originate from my conscience to uphold the rule of law.”

Judge Hong said: “As a career person in the law, I cannot allow myself to be trapped in partisan and ideological disputes. I exercise impartial judicial discretion when I preside over trials. I believe that a judge must be a protector of the legal rights of every victim and defendant.”

Chen Shui-bian’s trial came under sharp international criticism and has been marred by allegations of perjured testimony and an after-hours skit by courtroom personnel mocking Chen.

Judge Tsai Sho-shuin cancelled Chen’s bail and ordered him held in prison while he awaited trial. After being convicted of a “soft money” allegation of corruption Chen was given a lengthy prison term and remains incarcerated in a tiny cell for long periods of time.

Chen’s health has deteriorated while in prison and while recently being treated for a heart condition learned he had unknowingly also been drugged with the psychiatric medication lorazepan by prison doctors.