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MOJ deflects criticisms of prosecutor's transfer

MOJ deflects criticisms of prosecutor's transfer

The Ministry of Justice expressed its willingness yesterday to listen to different opinions from prosecutors on its decision to transfer High Prosecutor General Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定) in the wake of sharp criticisms that the move was politically motivated.
The ministry announced Thursday that Hsieh will be transferred to the post of presiding prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, despite the fact that a meeting to discuss Hsieh's transfer was not held that day as scheduled because the nine members of the Prosecutors' Personnel Review Committee failed to show up.
In a statement, the nine members said they suspected that the proposed transfer was "politically motivated" and they had therefore decided not to attend the meeting.
The nine further stated that the MOJ had departed from proper legal procedure by announcing that Hsieh would be replaced by Taipei Prosecutor General Yen Da-ho, without formally seeking the opinions of at least half of the 17-member committee.
The Prosecutors' Reform Association, meanwhile, announced that it will promote an amendment to the relevant regulations that would require the committee's approval to make valid any personnel transfers among prosecutors-generals.
Following the statement by the nine committee members, rumors surfaced alleging that Hsieh's transfer was related to the corruption indictment against first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍).
Wu and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) have been charged with misusing a special state affairs fund allocated for the president's discretionary use, but the president was not indicted as the Constitution grants him immunity from criminal charges.
According to local Chinese-language news reports, Hsieh's transfer came as a result of his refusal to bow to pressure from the Presidential Office for him to drop the case against Wu.
The Prosecutors' Reform Association, as well as Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) who brought the indictment against first lady, both urged Yen to refuse to accept the post vacated by Hsieh, saying that the personnel transfer was influenced by political forces and that it had undermined the independence of the prosecution.
"The replacement of the prosecutor-general at the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office which was in charge of the investigation on the high-profile state affairs fund case smacks of political intervention,” the association said in statement.
Prosecutor Liu Cheng-wu, a member of the association, said that the decision to transfer Hsieh was in line with President Chen's expectations, and that the president should be recalled in the interest of judicial reform.
The opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus urged prosecutors to unite to resist the MOJ's decision to replace Hsieh. The caucus also advised that Yen, as well as more than ten other ranking prosecuting attorneys nationwide who have also been reassigned, should refuse to take up the new posts.
In response, Vice Minister of Justice Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), said that the rumors surrounding Hsieh's transfer and linking it to the Wu case are unfounded.