Taiwan's top prosecutor indicted on leaking secrets

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's chief prosecutor was indicted for leaking confidential information to President Ma Ying-jeou about a controversial probe into influence peddling claims, officials said.

Prosecutor-general Huang Shyh-ming was charged Friday with leaking secrets relating to the probe, which is examining allegations that parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng meddled in a court case implicating an opposition lawmaker.

"Prosecutors should remain neutral and independent ... but the accused rushed to brief the president who was not involved in the case to provide information of an ongoing probe in violation of the laws," the Taipei district prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The information was obtained by a wiretap on opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Ker Chien-ming's phone, which prosecutors have insisted was legal.

However, the DPP has compared it to the Watergate scandal in the United States which resulted in the resignation of then-president Richard Nixon in 1974 - something they have now insisted Mr Ma must do.

Mr Ma's popularity has also taken a severe hit, plunging to a dismal nine per cent in the wake of the widening political scandal that has already seen two top officials resign, including his spokesman.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei in several demonstrations recently, hurling shoes at Mr Ma's portrait and calling on him to step down.

Mr Ma has said Mr Wang was "unfit" to head parliament after he was accused of influencing prosecutors not to appeal the acquittal last year of Mr Ker in a breach of trust case.

While Mr Ma described the incident as "the most shameful day" in Taiwan's democracy, the accusations have been strongly rejected by Mr Wang.