Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu hailed the acquittal of 21 city government officials and municipal sanitation workers Friday of election bribery charges, saying that justice has finally prevailed.
Chen made the remarks after the Kaohsiung District Court ruled earlier in the day that Hsiao Yu-cheng, a former head of the southern port city's Bureau of Environmental Protection, and the 20 other municipal officials and sanitation workers were not guilty of charges of conducting vote-buying activities ahead of the Jan. 12 legislative elections.
"I'm very glad to see all of the defendants cleared of the vote buying charges, " Chen said, adding that she believes in their innocence from the very beginning.
Hsiao was indicted in February on charges of vote buying in an attempt to help then-Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse get re-elected in the legislative polls. Prosecutors demanded a 14-year prison term for Hsiao, plus the stripping of his civil rights for 10 years after he serves the sentence.
Upon learning of the "not guilty" ruling, Hsiao said he appreciates the court's move to clear his name and his colleagues' reputation.
Hsiao was detained Nov. 24, 2007 and held for more than one month for alleged vote-buying activities. The prosecutors accused him of spending NT$14,400 of his office funds to treat 17 of his subordinates -- mostly heads of street cleaning squads in the city's Sanmin District -- to a dinner in a restaurant in November, asking them to vote for Lee Kun-tse.
Hsiao insisted he was innocent, saying that he was merely entertaining the sanitation workers in appreciation of their efforts in helping the city to bring a dengue fever outbreak under control.
"I feel sorry for getting grassroots sanitation staff involved in grueling litigation procedures, " an emotional Hsiao said after learning of the acquittal ruling. "It's great as the clouds finally clear up."
Hsiao, who was removed from his environmental bureau chief post to a city government advisory position after being indicted, said he has encouraged the other wrongly accused to continue their service for local citizens. It remains unclear whether Hsiao will reclaim his previous post.