Taiwan district court acquits former president of leaking classified information

Ma Ying-jeou found not guilty of violating information law and cleared of libel

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 4:36pm

A Taiwan district court cleared former president Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday of charges of leaking classified information over a controversial wiretapping case in 2013.

In a widely watched sentence handed down by the Taipei District Court, judges found Ma not guilty of violating the laws protecting classified and personal intelligence information, a court spokesman said, adding judges also cleared Ma of libel charges.

Ma was accused by Ker Chien-ming, a former Democratic Progressive Party whip, of passing on sensitive information about an investigation into allegations of influence buying in the island’s legislature to then-cabinet chief Jiang Yi-huah and his top aide, Lo Chih-chiang, four years ago.

Ma, however, said for what he viewed as a “world-class scandal”, he needed to consult the cabinet head and his top aide on how to deal with the case.

The spokesman said Ker had the right to appeal the court’s decision.

The so-called sensitive information was about a wiretapped phone conversation between Ker and then legislature speaker Wang Jin-pyng – Ma’s political rival – during which Ker was alleged to ask Wang to use his influence so that prosecutors would not pursue an appeal against Ker over a lawsuit already cleared by the court.

The case dates back to September 2013 when then attorney general Huang Shih-ming reported to Ma about wiretapped conversations between Ker and Wang. The now-defunct Special Investigation Department under the Supreme Prosecutors Office later held a news conference and released a transcript of the Wang-Ker conversation in which the two men appeared to discuss lobbying senior justice officials to prevent appeals against a breach of trust case in which Ker had been acquitted. Ker and Wang denied any wrongdoing. Ker later sued Ma for leaking secret information.

Taiwan’s ex-president Ma Ying-jeou charged with leaking details of wiretap probe

The wiretapping case led to an open dispute between Ma and Wang. Ma wanted Wang’s membership of the then governing Koumintang revoked, which would have led to the speaker’s removal from the legislature.

Wang later sought a court injunction against Ma’s order and successfully fought off efforts to remove him from the party.

Ma is not the first former Taiwanese president to face legal ­action. Chen Shui-bian was jailed in 2009 on graft charges.