Taipei, March 14 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was indicted Tuesday for allegedly abetting the leak of classified information related to the investigation of an opposition lawmaker while the probe was in progress in September 2013, prosecutors in Taipei said.
The Taipei District Prosecutors Office said Ma violated the Criminal Code, the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted.
The controversy erupted in September 2013 after it was disclosed that then-State Prosecutor-General Huang Shyh-ming (黃世銘) had shown Ma a transcript of wiretapped conversations that were part of the evidence collected in an ongoing investigation of alleged influence peddling by two senior members of the Legislature.
In the taped conversations, then Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) were heard talking about lobbying two senior justice officials, including the minister of justice, to prevent any appeal of a breach of trust case in which Ker had been acquitted.
According to prosecutors, Ma encouraged Huang to leak the contents of the recording, Ker's personal information and other information related to the ongoing investigation to then Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and then Presidential Office Deputy Secretary General Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強).
Huang was convicted in February 2015 of violating the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, commutable to a fine of NT$457,000 (US$14,751), which he has since paid.
Ma was president at the time and therefore had immunity from criminal prosecution but he was summoned as a defendant in the case for the first time on Dec. 1 last year, after he left office in May.
Ma argued in court that the alleged influence-peddling case was not a criminal act under the Criminal Code, but an illegitimate act in an administrative sense.
He said that influence peddling in a judicial matter involved the political responsibility of the justice minister and therefore it became the responsibility of the president and the premier. He was justified in asking Huang to give the information to then Premier Jiang, Ma said.
Ma argued he was merely fulfilling his duty as head of state under the Constitution.
Prosecutors, however, rejected Ma's argument and said he had crossed the line between the legal and political spheres.
When the president exercises his or her authority, he or she should do so in accordance with the basic principles of constitutional separation of powers and checks and balances and should not violate the fundamental rights of the people, prosecutors said, according to a legal paper handed out to the press.
They said that there should be no question that no unauthorized constitutional institutions may access or disclose information in an ongoing investigation.
(By Wang Yang-yu and Christie Chen)