Taiwan ex-lawmaker Yen Ching-piao reports for jail

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former independent lawmaker Yen Ching-piao complained about harsh treatment by the judiciary just before he reported to prison Tuesday.
Late last year, the court confirmed a sentence of three years and six months for spending NT$18 million (US$607,000) in taxpayers’ funds on wining and dining at hostess bars between October 1998 and December 2000, when he served as speaker of the Taichung County Council.
The verdict led to the loss of his status as a legislator, but his son Yen Kuan-hen won the seat in Taichung City by a razor-thin margin in a January 26 by-election. The father is an influential independent, but his son ran for the ruling Kuomintang.
“Those who need to be locked up should be locked up, but those who should not be jailed, should not serve one day too long,” the elder Yen told a news conference Tuesday morning.
He said he would respect the verdict of the courts but would strive for the rights he and other people facing a similar situation should hold.
Yen, 52, said the law had been especially harsh on him, but the authorities should make sure they were giving him a prison sentence that was the right length. As a former justice minister, President Ma Ying-jeou should pay close attention to the clarity of the law, he said.
An attorney went on to contest the amount of time Yen was supposed to serve beginning Tuesday.
The former lawmaker had already served one year and seven months of a sentence of three years and nine months for three previous violations before being freed on parole, the lawyer pointed out. Since a total sentence of seven years had been issued for all charges combined, the previous three years and nine months should be subtracted from the seven-year sentence and Yen should be eligible for parole as soon as one third of the sentence was served, his attorney argued.
The treatment of Yen’s case has come under fire not for its harshness but for alleged favoritism. Critics accused the authorities of allowing Yen to remain free while campaigning for his son and to spend the Lunar New Year holiday at home despite the seriousness of the charges.
The opposition contrasted the treatment of Yen with the measures meted out against former President Chen Shui-bian, who has been languishing first in prison and more recently at a Taipei hospital despite rising calls for medical parole.
Despite the influence of the elder Yen, his son won the Taichung by-election by only about 1,000 votes more than the candidate from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Commentators listed the result as a Pyrrhic victory for both the Yen family and Ma, who stayed away from campaigning in the election district because of his nationwide unpopularity, critics said.
Two other politicians convicted in the same case as Yen, former Taichung City Council Speaker Chang Ching-tang and former Taichung County Council Chief Secretary Tsai Wen-hsiung, began their prison terms on December 22.
Yen arrived at the Taichung Prosecutors Office later Tuesday afternoon, wearing an athletics suit and surrounded by attorneys and supporters, cable stations reported.