Taiwan ex-leader Ma Ying-jeou found not guilty in leaks case

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou applauding at a local designing awards ceremony in Taipei on April 21, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese court Friday (Aug 25) found former president Ma Ying-jeou not guilty in a political leaks case, his second acquittal in a raft of lawsuits brought against him since he stepped down last year.

Ma was cleared of charges of leaking secrets and instructing a top prosecutor to disclose confidential information about a judicial probe in 2013.

"Defendant Ma Ying-jeou is found not guilty" of violating the communication security and surveillance act as well as the personal information protection act, said Taipei district court judge Tang Yueh.

Ma was not present when the verdict was announced. He had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and accused the prosecution of basing their case on flimsy evidence and speculation.

He expressed gratitude and relief at the verdict, saying that he hoped "future ex-presidents would not have to face all kinds of meaningless hassles", according to a statement issued by his office.

Friday's case was filed by Taipei prosecutors acting on behalf of the government, who charged Ma with leaking secrets to then premier Jiang Yi-huah and an aide about the 2013 judicial probe.

They also accused him of instructing the then prosecutor-general to disclose confidential information to Jiang.

The charges were punishable by a maximum three-year jail term.

In March, Ma was cleared by the Taipei district court of leaking secrets and defamation in a separate lawsuit filed by a lawmaker also in connection with the 2013 judicial probe.

The probe was looking into whether the parliamentary speaker at the time - a political rival of Ma - had improperly influenced a court case against the lawmaker.

Ma had been accused of defamation by implying that the lawmaker had sought to influence the case.

While still in office Ma was protected by political immunity.

But since he stepped down as leader in May last year the 67-year-old has been hit with a string of corruption and other allegations.

Ma's Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party held power from 2008 to 2016, before it was trounced by Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

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