Admin's Note: This account was set up on behalf of Zain Dean who wished Taiwaneasy.tw to publish the following Press Release. He indicated that he had mailed the same message simultaneously to the Taipei Times, Apple and TVBS.Re: Traffic accident in Taiwan, March 2010
Firstly I would like to apologise to the people of Taiwan and especially to the family of the deceased motorcyclist Mr. Hwang Jun Deh, for my abrupt departure from Taiwan, which has caused some consternation.
From the beginning, it was always my intention to allow the legal process to take its course, with the aim of getting a fair and impartial trial, based on the principles of ROC law and correct legal procedure. In essence, I put my faith in the system and trusted that the truth would come out.
However, after almost three years of going through Taiwan’s court system, I was shocked and dismayed by the extreme bias with which I was treated, to the degree that I was denied the chance to defend myself fairly.
Thus my recent actions. I felt that I was given no choice but to take matters into my own hands; to defend my human rights and leave Taiwan in the way that I did, which was to take the passport of another without his consent.
By way of example: on the day of my defence hearing in the appellate court, the lead judge fell asleep at his seat for a good 20 minutes while my lawyer was presenting my case.
Another, more germane example involves the issue of traffic cameras. At the very start of my trial, my defence attorney issued a request for all the relevant Taipei City traffic camera video files. These videos would surely prove that I was not at the wheel, and therefore exonerate me of the charges.
I feel this is an important point to clarify, since the media reports are contending that I was found guilty based on traffic-camera video evidence and witnesses. This is blatantly untrue. No such credible evidence was ever presented.
In fact, the only relevant video evidence presented, of the time prior to the traffic accident, clearly shows that I was in the passenger seat. Contrary to what has been reported in the press and stated by the prosecutors office, there was absolutely NO video evidence showing me driving the car at the scene of the accident.
Throughout the ordeal of the trial it was always my hope that similar video evidence, but taken after the accident, would finally be produced (in fact, ALL the video evidence that exists should have been shown in court), as this video would have settled any lingering questions over who was at the wheel.
But for over 2 years, we were still denied access. Oddly, the relevant Da'an police report stated that the video from every single relevant traffic camera was either missing or non-existent. This report was presented on the last day of the trial, and was 26 months after the traffic incident. I believe that the relevant video exists—or existed and has since been destroyed—but has been deliberately withheld because it would have proved my innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt.
For those unfamiliar with the events of that evening, it transpired briefly as follows. I had been entertaining a business client at a Taipei KTV, as is the custom when doing business in Taiwan. When it came time to head home, I asked the KTV to provide me with a driver—a service that many such establishments routinely provide for just these circumstances—as I felt that I had had too much to drink. Indeed, my business client testified that as I left that morning, my car was being driven by the driver appointed by the KTV, an employee of the establishment. This is also consistent with the video evidence, taken prior to the accident, showing me in the passenger seat.
The only eyewitnesses used as evidence against me, were the ones from the KTV itself, which had supplied the driver to take me home. All three statements from these KTV staff members conflicted with each other. Two of the witnesses were themselves were paid valet-drivers whose job it was to drive home customers who were over the alcohol limit. One of these witnesses was later jailed for amphetamine use and, in the words of his manager at the KTV (which are in the official court transcripts), "[he] had been fired for drinking whilst on the job", which was not exactly suitable for someone who drove customers people home.
Crucially, over the different hearings (district court, appeal court) each of three KTV staff statements also changed, including the driver’s alibi. The man who drove me home that night claimed to have made a U-Turn at the first intersection after leaving the KTV, and walked back to his place of work. Of course, this story could have been tested had the aforementioned video evidence been made available.
But this video was not made available, because, according to the Da'an police department’s report, there were no cameras installed at the relevant intersection. This report, filed 26 months after the incident, stated that "all 40 traffic cameras along the route of the traffic incident had been installed after the accident happened, were out of order, or had been lost by being overwritten".
This assertion is easily disproved by anyone wishing to check on Google Maps Street View, which shows clearly that video cameras had been installed at the intersection in question prior to the night in question. Indeed, my lawyer used the Google Maps Street View showing time-stamped images to clearly demonstrate that the cameras which were alleged by the police not to exist, did in fact exist, at the time of the traffic incident.
Again, this begs the question: If the video evidence was such a crucial aspect of proving the KTV's version of events, why were these cameras listed as not existing, and why did these video files go missing?
And why was it during the initial district court trial, that my lawyer and myself were denied access to any of the key evidence for the entire duration of the trial, which was my legal right under law? Why were there staged photographs inserted into the case folder by the Da'an police department that seemed to show a man walking back to the KTV after apparently doing a U-Turn on the intersection in question? (these photographs were later acknowledged by the judge as not being admissible as evidence). Why was it that a few minutes after the KTV manager personally visited Da'an police station and had tea and discussions with the police, that I became the only suspect? (at this point there had been no thorough investigation, and after the manager left the media were misled and immediately invited to the police station to start reporting).
The answer is found in a sensitive subject, and on which many Taiwanese (especially officials) do not like to discuss in the presence of foreigners. It is the routine corruption that is found in some police precincts. The one handling this investigation, the Da'an police precinct, is one of the most notorious and publically known as being gang-connected, to the degree that six of their CID officers were a week later publically investigated for taking bribes from organised crime members.
Over the past 3 years, the vigilant and very active media of Taiwan have featured many news stories that show judges, and police involved in cooperation with gangs, criminal activities, bribe taking and legal failures, so it is not necessary for me to go into this aspect of Taiwan's recent past here.
Notwithstanding all the facts I have presented, and the reasonable doubt that would naturally engender by any rational reckoning, I was railroaded by certain corrupt police, an incompetent justice system, and a grandstanding politician who took to rabble rousing against the dark-skinned foreigner.
And yet despite my ill-treatment in this case, I still love Taiwan. For more than 15 years, I worked as a marketing professional to help promote Taiwan's image and reputation overseas; I worked under Presidents Lee, Chen, and Ma to promote Taiwan's export industries, investment climate, and tourism sector. I also was a firm advocate of Taiwan's respect for human rights and, ironically, it's quality of legal process. I still believe in those things, but my faith has been tested.
Since the traffic incident happened, I have lost my company, customers, and entire savings. But I tried to accept my situation, move on and not blame anyone, as the loss of Huang's family was even greater.
However, there is one thing I do still believe in, and that is the people of Taiwan, who are on the whole decent, well meaning, industrious, and friendly. I will miss their generosity of spirit, and their willingness to take a foreigner into their hearts, and their families. I have been proud to promote Taiwan; proud of its democratization, its respect for human rights, and its emergence out of authoritarianism to establish perhaps the closest thing to a liberal democracy in all of Asia.
Indeed, I hope Taiwan can remain a part of my life: despite my necessary departure, I am willing to negotiate a return to Taiwan, to be retried, but only if my legal and human rights can be guaranteed.
My voluntary return would be predicated upon certain conditions:
1) That an international impartial, trusted third-party human rights organisation act as an observer to my retrial.
2) That the court proceedings be jointly monitored by this international organisation, and one of the several Taiwanese legal and human rights organisations that concern themselves with judicial fairness.
3) That an investigation be conducted on the missing traffic-camera videos—the videos that will, if they still exist, demonstrate to all exactly what transpired that night beyond a shadow of a doubt.
4) That judges can be appointed who will look first at the evidence and relevant laws first, and not hold the colour of my skin against me.
It is clear that a transparent, impartial police, prosecutor and court system needs to be promoted and enforced if Taiwan is ever to take its rightful place in the community of nations. It is my hope that this time the media's powers can be used to improve the legal infrastructure so that others in the future will not have to go through the same experience.
It could be the years of promoting Taiwan's virtues that also make me want to add that there are many splendid police officers, prosecutors and judges in Taiwan; I am not by any means making a generalized statement, and please excuse me if this impression is being given.
Finally, I mean with this statement to indicate that I did not run away or give up on Taiwan, but rather made a tactical retreat to allow me some freedom to insist on fairness and proper legal process. As with any defendant, I deserve to be judged on actual evidence and law, not bias and sensationalism. The law is written clearly; a person is innocent until proven guilty.