Court acquits Ma over classified data leak

The Taipei District Court yesterday found former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) not guilty of abetting a leak of classified information related to an investigation of a then-opposition lawmaker while the probe was in progress in 2013.

Prosecutors said they would appeal the verdict.

In September 2013, it was uncovered that then-prosecutor-general Huang Shyh-ming (黃世銘) had shown Ma a transcript of wiretapped conversations collected in an investigation of an alleged breach of trust by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).

Prosecutors contended that Ma encouraged Huang to leak the contents of the wiretaps, Ker’s personal information and other data related to the investigation to then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and then-Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強).

Huang was convicted in February 2015 for breaches of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法) and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, commutable to a fine of NT$457,000, which he has since paid.

Ma was president at the time, giving him immunity from criminal prosecution.

However, after leaving office in May last year, he was summoned as a potential defendant in the case on Dec. 1.

On March 14, Ma was indicted on charges of violating the Criminal Code, the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

During the trial, Ma placed heavy emphasis on “special presidential executive powers,” which he said granted him the right to inquire about ongoing criminal investigations to prepare for potential crises that could destabilize the government.

However, prosecutors contended that Ma, as a former minister of justice, should know well the need to keep such information confidential.

“There should be other methods through which a president could handle such matters, and no incident created the necessity nor urgency to break such confidentiality,” prosecutors said.

The judge yesterday said that while Ma’s conveyance of the information to Jiang and Lo breached confidentiality, it was “in accordance with the law.”

Ma office spokesman Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) quoted the former president as saying that he was gratified by the result and that the ruling was not only about his personal rights, but also establishing the rightful extent of a president’s executive powers under the Constitution.

Lo called on the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office not to appeal the ruling and save what dignity Taiwan’s judiciary might still have, as well as the office some face.

DPP spokesperson Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) said that the party regretted the ruling, but would respect the results.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiao-kuang and Su Fang-ho

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