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Court withholds decision on tape in Ma graft trial

Judge says answer on whether transcriptis admissible to be announced with verdict

Former Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou is seen outside the Taipei District Court July 23, 2007.

Former Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou is seen outside the Taipei District Court July 23, 2007.

Judges did not make a ruling on whether Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen distorted the testimony given by a witness in former Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) embezzlement trial in his written record after reviewing a audiotape voice-recording the questioning session with the witness.
The Taipei District Court yesterday afternoon held an additional court hearing on Ma's case to reexamine the testimony given by Wu Li-ju, a cashier working under the Taipei City Government Secretariat, while being questioned by Hou in January. Ma's defense lawyers claimed Wu's testimony was inaccurately transcribed by the prosecutor.
The court finally decided not to review the entire process of the questioning session with Wu but to only review the approximately 20-minute interrogation in question, as suggested by Ma's defense team.
After spending more than one hour reviewing the recording, presiding judge Tsai Shou-hsun announced that he wouldexplain whether Hou's written record of Wu's testimony is admissible as a evidence when he issued a verdict in the high-profile case.
According to local media, after reexamination of Wu's testimony, the prosecution thought that no discrepancies exist between Hou's record and Wu's oral statement and that Hou did not distort what Wu meant, while defense lawyers still insisted that the prosecutor's written record of Wu's testimony should be replaced with a word-by-word transcript as evidence in the case.
One of Ma's lawyers, Song Yao-ming noted, "The doubts about the accuracy of Hou's written record of Wu's testimony might be just a small part of the whole case, but the aggregation of each one percent could exert a critical influence on the conclusion (referring to the court's verdict on the case) so we have to focus on each link in the case."
Analysts thought that the dispute over whether a prosecutor distorted the testimony given by a witness during interrogation in his written record probably would not have any influence on the district court's ruling, but could deeply influence people's confidence in judicial authorities.
Meanwhile, a defense witness at yesterday's court hearing even gave testimony favorable to the prosecution.
Shih Su-mei, the director of the Department of Budget, Accounting and Statistics under the Taipei City Government told the judges that she thought that half of the mayoral special allowance fund, which the Taipei mayor was allowed to collect without providing vouchers to account for his spending, should in principle be used exclusively on public affairs.
Shih's statement reportedly surprised Ma, his defense team and even the prosecutors, as her view about the character of the special allowance seemed to be opposite to Ma's.
Ma has insisted that he regarded the monthly special allowance as part of his personal salary rather than public fund and denied having embezzled any public fund.
Ma this February was indicted on corruption charges over his alleged embezzlement of NT$11.17 million from the mayoral special allowance fund during his tenure as Taipei mayor.
Taipei mayor was allowed to collect half of the fund allocated for mayor's discretionary use by just signing a receipt.
The prosecutors did not take issue with the city government's practice of having half of the fund remitted to the mayor's personal account but charged Ma on the grounds that he did not spend all of the money and kept remaining stipend as personal income.
The prosecutors insisted that the special allowance fund is a public fund and Ma's action not to use all the money remitted to his personal account and to keep unused money in his personal account could constitute embezzlement.
Shih, nevertheless, thought that the fund should be used on public affairs but the mayor does not need to return unspent money to the country as all required procedure was completed once mayor collected the special allowance by signing a receipt.