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Council dismisses lawmakers' petition for 'immunity' ruling

Judges reject argument that petition is linked to legislators' authority to impeach president

Council dismisses lawmakers' petition for 'immunity' ruling

The Council of Grand Justices yesterday dismissed a petition filed by 84 pan-green lawmakers that requested a constitutional interpretation of presidential immunity. A dispute has arisen around the legality of prosecutors' probes into President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) alleged embezzlement of the state affairs fund, which is earmarked for the president's discretionary use.
In dismissing the petition, the grand justices at the same time invalidated another request by the legislators for a temporary injunction against the ongoing trial involving the first lady and three presidential aides, who are also accused of "tampering" with the state affairs fund, the Judicial Yuan announced.
According to the Grand Justice Council's constitutional interpretation, the petition was dismissed because of "procedural" problems, and it was not explained whether the judicial probes into the president's alleged embezzlement or the trial of the first lady were deemed in any way unconstitutional.
Ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers filed the petition last December with the aim of postponing the trial of first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), citing that it triggered constitutional disputes by possibly conflicting with Article 52 of the Constitution, which grants an incumbent president immunity from criminal charges.
To explain why they filed the petition, DPP lawmakers emphasized that the state affairs fund case is linked to opposition lawmakers' desire to impeach or propose to recall the president, as the embezzlement indictment against Wu over the case has already been cited by opposition parties as the main reason they launched a third recall motion against President Chen.
However, the grand justices did not accept the lawmakers' explanation, noting that the petition was unrelated to the authority of legislators to impeach or propose a presidential recall motion.
"The lawmakers did not explain what constitutional disputes occurred when they reviewed the recall motion against the president," grand justices emphasized in a statement.
"Moreover, legislators' exercising of their authority to impeach or propose to recall the president is granted in the Constitution and should not be linked to the disputes about presidential immunity," added the Grand Justice Council.
To further detail the issue, the Grand Justice Council said they had dismissed the lawmakers' request for an explanation as to whether two stipulations of the Law of the Court Organization and one stipulation of the Law of Criminal Proceedings are in conflict with the Constitution's Article 52 that concerns presidential immunity.
The Grand Justice Council decided that if lawmakers thought any stipulation of current laws to be unconstitutional, they should exercise their power to modify the stipulation or propose an amendment to the law first, rather than petition the council for constitutional explanations.
It was pointed out that the Law of Criminal Proceedings does not grant an incumbent president immunity from citizens' obligation to give testimony, something the DPP lawmakers think violates the Constitution, although they have yet to propose any amendment to the law.
The two controversial stipulations of the Law of the Court Organization allow a special investigative team from the Supreme Prosecutors Office to investigate corruption cases or electoral fraudulence involving the president.
A proposal to modify these two stipulations had not yet been reviewed when lawmakers submitted the petition for constitutional interpretation on whether the two stipulations violate the Constitution, said the grand justices.