Taiwan police arrest driver after crash at presidential office

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan police arrested a man who crashed a sports utility vehicle into a security barrier outside the presidential office on Monday, in the third incident in just over a year.

The previous two crashes - in January and November 2014 - were a form of protest by the vehicle drivers.

But the 39-year-old at the wheel of the black SUV said that Monday's crash, which left no one hurt, was an accident, with no political motive.

However, the presidential office issued a swift statement "condemning any type of violence" while saying that "the presidential office respects the rights of expression by the people".

It added that president Ma Ying-jeou was not at the office in the capital Taipei when the incident happened.

The driver, identified by police by his surname Lin, crashed into a security barrier just after 6.40 am (2240 GMT Sunday).

"He told us this crash was caused by his careless driving and said he has no political motive," a police officer told AFP. The suspect was questioned further and is still custody.

In November, a man drove his car into the door of Ma's guarded residence, near the presidential office. The driver told police he was protesting over what he said were failings in the health system.

In January last year, a 41-year-old man, who said he was angry at a court ruling in a case involving his divorced wife, rammed a 35-tonne truck through a bulletproof screen and into the main gate of the presidential office.

He was badly injured but no one else was hurt in the incident, which authorities said was the worst ever security breach of the building.

He was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison by a district court for manslaughter and five other charges.

That attack prompted authorities to tighten security and more than NT$3 million (S$128,700) was spent repairing the damage done to the 95-year-old building.

Security was further tightened following mass protests in the centre of the city last March which saw the island's parliament occupied for three weeks by student demonstrators.