Ex-President Ma acquitted of information leak charge

2019/07/12 20:37:55 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九/CNA file photo)

Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九/CNA file photo)

Taipei, July 12 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been acquitted by the Taiwan High Court of charges that he leaked classified information during his presidency, ending a case that had seen varying rulings over the past two years.

The High Court said Friday the acquittal was issued because prosecutors failed to provide sufficient evidence to convict Ma for the information leak under the Criminal Code.

The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

According the High Court, however, Ma could still face administrative punishment for breaching the Public Functionary Service Act, as the case erupted in August 2013 when Ma was in his second four-year stint as president.

The High Court delivered the verdict after being asked by the Supreme Court in January 2019 to review its previous verdict of a four-month jail term for Ma in May 2018, which overturned a not-guilty decision issued by the Taipei District Court in August 2017.

The case goes back to Aug. 31, 2013, when then-prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) reported transcripts from secret wiretaps of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) to Ma at his presidential residence.

The conversations, obtained by the now-defunct Special Investigation Division (SID), involved Ko and then-legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the Kuomintang (KMT), who allegedly discussed ways to lobby Ministry of Justice officials to drop a separate ongoing case against Ko.

According to prosecutors, Ma leaked 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).

They also indicted him for instructing Huang to leak the confidential information to Jiang.

Huang was found to have passed on the classified information from the transcripts of a conversation between Ker, Wang and others to Jiang. He stepped down from his post in January 2015 and was convicted of divulging confidential information to Ma and Jiang a month later.

During the trial, Ma repeatedly cited Article 44 of the Constitution to defend his actions.

He argued that under the constitutional framework, he was granted "special executive power" to inquire about ongoing criminal investigations to fend off any chaos that could destabilize the government, justifying his decision to discuss the situation with Jiang and Lo.

Ma's office said in a statement, meanwhile, that the former president was pleased with the final verdict, which it said not only has cleared Ma's name but also helped clarify executive powers granted to the president under the Constitution.

(By Flor Wang and Wang Cheng-chung)
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