Taiwan president sued for declassifying controversial documents

Other News Materials 8 August 2008 11:31 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday was sued by opposition lawmakers for treason for his declassification of controversial documents that they claimed had led to exposure of national secrets, dpa reported.

"Ma Ying-jeou has violated the laws by exposing national secrets through his declassification of documents listed as top secrets by former president Chen Shui-bian," said Ke Chien-min, parliament caucus leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"For this, we have sued him for alleged treason according to Article 109 of the Criminal Code, and alleged exposure of top secrets according to Article 32 of National Secret Protection Bill and Article 110 of Civil Servants Disciplinary Bill," he said.

On Wednesday, Ma declassified documents to facilitate prosecutors' investigation into embezzlement allegations against his predecessor on the grounds that those materials contain nothing confidential at all and would in no way endanger the national interests if exposed.

The move prompted angry protest from DPP politicians, who decided to sue Ma in retaliation.

"What Ma did was a political witch hunt and to please the ex-president's opponents," said DPP parliamentarian Ke Chih-peng, who joined Ke and several other DPP lawmakers in suing Ma on Friday.

Presidential spokesman Wang Yu-chi later pointed out none of the documents involved military, diplomatic or national secrets, making it unreasonable for them to be made top secret as Chen had sought.

"We believe their so-called legal action is aimed at shifting the attention from the fact that those documents have no classified value at all," he said.

The former president is accused of being involved in a 14.8-million-Taiwan-dollar (483,000-US-dollar) embezzlement case in which, his wife, Wu Shu-chen, has already been charged.

Wu was indicted in November 2006 and questioned by a court a month later over allegations she used receipts provided by others to make spending claims of up to 14.8 million Taiwan dollars from 2000 to 2006. Prosecutors said they had enough evidence to charge Chen with the same crime but would wait until he left office because of his presidential immunity.

Chen, whose term ended in May, has tried to stop the court's proceeding against his wife by declaring the receipts and other documents gathered as evidence by prosecutors were secret, saying under the constitution, the judicial authorities had no power to access those documents and hence could not use them as evidence.

Chen's office criticized the declassification, saying it was "not only a violation of law but also a serious violation of the constitution, which empowers a president to make certain information top secret permanently."