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Hsieh Wen-ting keen to reopen March 19 probe

Nominee for top public prosecutor post answers questions in legislative hearing

Hsieh Wen-ting keen to reopen March 19 probe

Amid suspicions regarding whether he has the "guts" to investigate the thorny election-eve shooting case of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and other major corruption cases, State Public Prosecutor-general nominee Hsieh Wen-ting yesterday announced that he considers the investigation into the 'March 19' case to be incomplete and is keen to further investigations.

The potential state public prosecutor-general, nominated by President Chen, said he will take any measures to reopen the March 19 shooting case if necessary, adding that a special investigating agency in charge of investigating major domestic as well as international cases will be established in the coming two months.

"I will not give into temptation nor bow to any possible political pressures from the president or legislators," he said "And I will quickly set up a special investigation agency to fight against corruption."

Hsieh yesterday made the announcements as cross-party legislators gave him a warm welcome at a joint meeting of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, the Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, as well as the Home and Nations Committee.

He is the first potential state public prosecutor general in Taiwan's judicial history who could gain majority approval from the Legislature, following an amendment to the Court Organic Law that took effects last month.

On February 24, President Chen officially named Hsieh to replace his predecessor Wu Ying-chao (吳英昭). The joint meeting of legislative committees yesterday reviewed the nomination and will continue to review it until next Monday. After the review, all legislators will vote on the nomination next month.

The Legislature passed the revision in order to prevent the president from having full and direct control over selections for the post, as was previously the case.

Under the amendment, a special investigating panel, headed by the state public prosecutor general, will be established. The agency under the Supreme Prosecutor's Office is empowered to investigate major cases, such as the Lafayette scandal and the March 19 shooting.

The candidate yesterday reported to legislators, saying he hoped to set up a panel soon, adding that he is keen to launch probes into any cases of nationwide election violations, major corruption cases, as well as any major economic crimes.

Though named by President Chen, the 57-year-old prosecutor said he will devote himself to being an "independent" state public prosecutor-general and is ready to take on heavy responsibilities.

But when asked whether he may resign during his only four-year tenure, Hsieh refused to make any promises.

Answering queries from opposition legislators, the candidate said he considered the review of the investigation into the March 19 shooting to be incomplete and is keen to re-open the case.

Hsieh's adjusted announcement came after saying last week that he did not rule out the possibility of re-opening the case if prosecutors found any major flaws or new evidence was found.

The prosecutor in charge of investigating the 'March 19' shooting case was accused of "falsifying" statements made by the main suspect's widow, Lee Shu-ching.

Police have identified Chen Yi-hsiung (陳義雄), a man who committed suicide just over a week after the incident, as the gunmen in the attack that took place the day before the 2004 presidential election.

But the drama took a new twist on March 12 when Chen's widow said the police pressured her into providing evidence and making a statement that helped authorities feel confident enough of her husband's guilt to close the investigation seven month ago.

Hsieh said any prosecutors should avoid modifying statements, when they are participating in probes. He added that he will take any measures to further the investigation once the case is reopened.

These measures include releasing official documents from meetings of the National Security Council (國家安全會議) and the Ministry of National Defense to clarify why orders of national security and national defense were changed on the day before the election.

Around eight members of the panel are directly appointed by the state public prosecutor general, according to existing regulations.

He said he welcomed any prestigious prosecutors to join the investigations, but noted that members should set aside their "ideologies."

Not all lawmakers were satisfied with Hsieh's response, some requesting the nominee articulate his stances on major cases next Monday.

Meanwhile, opposition Kuomintang Legislator John Wu voiced dissatisfaction with the nominee's resume, saying the information that Hsieh provided was too rough. Lawmakers were unable judge whether the candidate is qualified to do the job or not, he said.

Hsieh promised that he will submit papers from his past investigative cases, including indictments and non-prosecutions, to prove his eligibility.

The nominee served in the Ministry of Justice nearly ten years, and is currently prosecutor-general at the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office.

Updated : 2021-10-17 21:26 GMT+08:00