Former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou acquitted of leaking secret information, defamation

Taiwan's former president, Ma Ying-jeou, attends a gathering at the National Taiwan University after he was charged with leaking state secrets, in Taipei, Taiwan on March 14, 2017.
Taiwan's former president, Ma Ying-jeou, attends a gathering at the National Taiwan University after he was charged with leaking state secrets, in Taipei, Taiwan on March 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - A Taipei court on Tuesday (March 28) acquitted former president Ma Ying-jeou of leaking secret information on a criminal investigation and defamation.

The charges in the case, filed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming, include violations of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act, in connection with a wiretapping case in 2013.

Ker accused Ma of illegally passing classified information to former premier Jiang Yi-huah and then presidential office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang about a probe into alleged improper lobbying involving  Ker and former Kuomintang (KMT) Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. 

Ker claimed the leak damaged his reputation by implicating him in an alleged case of influence-peddling in the judiciary. 

His lawyer told reporters on Tuesday that he was shocked by the court's decision, adding that he will appeal the ruling.

"We definitely do not accept the judgment and will do what it takes to get justice," the lawyer said.

Ma was not present when the verdict was announced. But he had appeared in an earlier hearing at the Taipei District Court and claimed he followed proper procedures.

Ma said the DPP lawmaker filed the lawsuit to distract public attention from his attempt to persuade prosecutors not to appeal a court ruling that found him not guilty of an embezzlement charge. 

In a separate lawsuit filed  by the government, Ma is also facing charges relating to leaks about the same investigation. 

He was indicted on March 13 for violating the Communication Security and Surveillance act, which carries a maximum three-year jail term.

Ma is the third ex-president in Taiwan to be indicted on criminal charges. His predecessor Chen Shui-bian was serving a 20-year sentence for corruption until he was freed on medical parole in 2015. Lee Teng-hui was charged with embezzling state funds during his 1988-2000 presidency, but was acquitted.